Express & Star comment: We must feed our hungry

We are the sixth richest nation on Earth. However, as we head towards a second wave during the Covid-19 pandemic, there are many grim realities to face.

The Trussell Trust Food Bank at Bargates Church Hall in Whitchurch.
The Trussell Trust Food Bank at Bargates Church Hall in Whitchurch.

Among the worst is this: the nation has not yet found a way to feed its citizens. The rise of food banks has been a consistent feature of communities across the region during recent years. In terms of hungry children, it has taken the campaign of a Manchester United star to alleviate some of the worst affects.

Furlough is ending just as the second wave is moving through the population. Inevitably, there will be a spike in the number of unemployed and more people will find it difficult to make ends meet. The safety net will fail to protect many of society’s most vulnerable who will require the assistance of charities and volunteers.

During lockdown, there has been a huge rise in demand for food banks and those who run them believe the Chancellor should now start to provide more help.

It is interesting too that those seeking help aren’t the usual customers but families who would consider themselves middle class but who have found their income lost and are watching debts mounting up.

The nation’s finances are in a parlous state and the Treasury simply cannot afford to answer every call it receives. Our economy has shrunk, many more businesses will cease trading and the Government does not have resources to fund every cause.

Providing sufficient food for those who cannot feed themselves, however, is a basic need and one that few would argue against. There are many families who this winter will have to choose between heating a freezing cold home or feeding their children; they simply will not be able to afford both.

As a society we must ensure that, as a very basic provision, food is on the table for children. We can give to food banks as a community but we must also expect Government to have the safety mechanisms in place to ensure all those who need help get it.

It should not be left to such campaigners as Marcus Rashford to sting the Government into action. Such measures should already be in place. The summer has seen a lull that will quickly be forgotten and social problems will soon mount. Hunger ought not to be one of those and the Government can and should intervene.

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