The numbers of people turning to the Cambridge foodbank for help is still rising rapidly says Cambridge Labour Parliamentary Candidate Daniel Zeichner after visiting the organisation’s warehouse and a distribution centre this week.
Mr Zeichner says that the numbers reveal a hidden side to the picture frequently painted of Cambridge as a prosperous city escaping wider economic problems. In 2011/12 1200 people used the Cambridge foodbank. That doubled to over 2400 in 2012/13, and current usage suggests that the figure will rise to over 4000 this year. Government ministers have suggested that most usage is because of delays in receiving benefits – data from the Cambridge foodbank suggests that this accounts for just over a third of cases, while 13% are a consequence of cuts to benefits, and a further quarter a consequence of very low pay.
Mr Zeichner says that the volunteers play an extremely valuable role and praised their contribution and the generosity of local churches and shoppers who donate food, but says that the foodbank is quite clear that it should not become part of the formal welfare state: “There has been an extraordinary rise in usage of foodbanks across Britain since the Coalition Government came to power. Foodbanks are a valuable addition to our statutory services, but the Government wants to make them a substitute for state provision. That’s unfair on volunteers and it’s wrong in principle. When over 4000 people in a city as wealthy as Cambridge are in need of help from the foodbank it is a sure sign that something is seriously wrong.”