Staff running a Huddersfield food bank have responded to a landmark food poverty report.
Lord Street’s Welcome Centre cheered the proposals outlined in the All Party Parliamentary Group, Feeding Britain’s, report.
In it, contributors urged government to do more to help those using food banks and encourage retailers and food manufacturers to give more to projects to help reduce food waste.
According to charity FareShare, 400,000 tonnes of surplus food is currently being wasted when it could be given to those in need.
The centre’s spokeswoman, Emma Greenough, whose centre helps 200 in need individuals and families each week, said: “The release is a good thing as it has highlighted the issues with waste food and the inconsistencies across different businesses such as supermarkets on how they are supporting local food banks.
“It also highlights the major issues people face when making a new claim or changing their benefits. “The general public is perhaps unaware of people waiting for up to 22 weeks for claims to processed and the fact that for many with no one to turn to this can could be tragic.”
Unlike some newer food banks, the Welcome Centre, which was set up 20 years ago, has been able to begin working with local retailers to ensure that less food will go to waste.
Emma said: “We have built really positive relationships this year with Greggs Bakers, Sainsburys and another organisation.
“This gives us the opportunity not only to support the local reduction of food waste but offer quality products in our packs at no cost and saves us money-we have saved £4,000 due to not having to buy bread any more.”
Barry Lee, chair of the Welcome Centre Board, blamed changes to the benefits system for increasing a poverty crisis.
He said: “At the moment, there is clear evidence from our own statistics that the changes to the benefits system, including delays and the punitive application of sanctions, have made the problem much worse.
“In between a third and a half of those we see cite problems with the system as the reason they’re there.
“The number of food packs we gave out in 1997-98 was about 10 per week, 10 years later it doubled to 20 and it’s increased by 10 times since then, having doubled in the last 3 years.
“The UK Government should be ashamed that over half a million people are going hungry today.
“It should not be passing the problem of ensuring that people are fed on to the voluntary sector which is inevitably fragile.”
Speaking in the House of Commons, Conservative Work and Pensions secretary, Iain Duncan Smith, said that he would try to prevent claimants’ ‘stumble’ into sanctions and would send new advice to relevant staff.