Food Prices and Food Poverty
Opposition Day — [Un-allotted Day]
Mary Creagh (Wakefield, Labour)
I do not know the answer to that question. I am not sure whether it is the role of jobcentres to pass people on. There is a question mark over whether it is appropriate for a Government agency dealing with people’s welfare and benefits to outsource the food element of that to charities, so I throw that question back to the Government.
I went with the centre manager, Gareth Jones, to make up a food parcel. It contained cereal, tins of beans, four tins of meat and four tins of fish—all nutritionally balanced by a health visitor who advises the centre. The hardest part for me was choosing the four treats. Would the children prefer a pot of honey or a treacle sponge pudding, meringue nests or another pot of jam? Those are treats that we all put into our shopping trolleys without a second thought.
Gareth told me that it was important to put in a mix of branded and non-branded goods, so that when people opened the bags at home, they would feel valued. He told me how he holds pampering sessions at which mums can enjoy a hot chocolate while someone minds their children for half an hour. He described how the type of person coming to the food bank had changed from the homeless and destitute to the working poor. He said that families were referred to it by charities, social services or even—as Robert Halfon said—the jobcentre. When the state does not provide, the big society is left to pick up the pieces.