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Foodbanks: Poverty in the Northern Powerhouse

Walking down Market Street in Manchester, the discount sales at the city centre shops only serve to illuminate the disparity between the people hoping for help, their blankets drenched with winter rain from one of the numerous storms to pour down over the UK, and the shoppers trying to bag a bargain.

As employment is further worn down, three-quarters of the power station at Fiddlers Ferry is soon to be closed, and sanctions to benefits become increasingly draconian, life becomes tougher for those at the bottom of society, and more and more people are living hand to mouth, reliant on volunteers and donations to get by. Contrasting with this show of decency and human warmth, George Osborne continually snips away at the strings of a compassionate society, only recently being forced into a humiliating U-turn over his budget and its attack on the disabled.

The number of foodbanks and those using them in Manchester seems to be increasing, and for all of [Manchester City Council leader] Richard Leese and the government’s talk of a Northern Powerhouse, there are a considerable amount of tents popping up around Manchester, inhabited by those who have nothing else to fall back on.

Whilst bus and train fares seem to rise faster than the rate of inflation, the amount going to those who need support drops. Citizens of the UK seem to welcome new ideas from the USA, such as box sets of Game of Thrones, but the foodbank is one concept that should have stayed across the pond.

The basic version of the foodbank is an organisation to which food is donated by those who can spare non-perishables, such as beans or rice – things that can be parcelled up and passed onto those in genuine need.

What type of bank is a foodbank? If I make a deposit of a large tin of baked beans, will I get a small one by way of interest? Is it protected by the FSCS? Why would anyone put something in a bank if someone else is going to take it out and they don’t even need a mask or a gun?

Several organisations operate foodbanks, most of them within their local community, whereas the Trussell Trust is one that operates over a wider geography. Within the Manchester area there are several groups, such as Christians Together in Burnage, Christ Church, St Bernard’s, St Margaret’s, St Nicholas’, and South Manchester Family Church, running such operations.

How is such an account opened? Can anyone make a withdrawal? Ironically, the worse your credit rating, the more likely you are to get a recommendation to join, without which, access is denied. It’s not just a case of turning up to compare prices with Lidl, but areas within the local community, such as schools or churches, supporting or identifying your needs. Each foodbank will have its own way of working, but for one with Trussell Trust support, each parcel contains three days’ worth of food, calculated at three meals a day.

Unfortunately, as revealed in figures recently issued by the Trussell Trust, the number of three-day food packs issued has seen a yearly increase of around 8%. If only other banks could match that level of interest. Even more worryingly, 14,572 packs were issued to children, and the Trust doesn’t cover all foodbanks in operation, so the figure is likely to be much higher.

Foodbanks invariably have the support of some of the larger supermarkets and you can make a deposit at some stores, who will then match it. The concept is developing in nature, with some now providing discounted food, whereas others are arranging for collections of foodstuff from supermarkets that’s passed its best before date.

Request for funding can be made to Manchester City Council, but that monetary stream is subject to requests from various sources.

At a time when Ghandi’s adage that “A nation’s greatness is measured by how it treats its weakest members” seems more relevant than ever, wouldn’t it be nice to find at least one bank that could shut down due to a lack of demand?

Details on the location of various foodbanks in the Greater Manchester area can be found at

Next article in issue 31

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