Column: COVID-19 and foodbanks

The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 10th July:

Coronavirus has not hit every family and community the same.

On Monday I spoke to volunteers at Barnsley Foodbank in Wombwell. They informed me that demand for emergency food parcels has trebled in recent months as hard-pressed families have struggled to put food on the table. At the same time donations to foodbanks fell to an all-time low as people stockpiled essentials and shopped less.

Nationally, the number of households in need of emergency supplies of essentials has doubled compared to this time last year. Families with one or even two furloughed parents have had to make do on wages that are 20% less than normal. At the same time, those who have been unable to access financial support have had to survive on Universal Credit payments of £94 a week.

Working families have been pushed into poverty.

Covid-19 feeds off inequality and makes it worse.

Before the Government’s U-turn on the provision of free school meals to children in need during the summer holidays, 1.3million children were at risk of going hungry. But, as a country we made the Government listen and take action. Marcus Rashford added his voice to the cause and over 250,000 people signed an online petition. We made it clear that vulnerable people deserve help to get through this unprecedented public health crisis.

As lockdown restrictions end and we enter a new ‘normal’ way of living it is important that the Government pays attention to what coronavirus has revealed about social inequality in this country. We need a social security net to catch those, through no fault of their own, who live on the edge of poverty. Urgent investment in local services, transport, infrastructure and our economy will protect our community and make it more resilient.

I will continue to fight for those who have missed out on Covid-19 financial support as well as push for more resources for our local Barnsley Council, which has continued to provide vital services to those in need throughout the pandemic.

In the meantime, if you have any spare or unwanted food and essentials, in particular pasta, tinned goods, nappies and toiletries please consider donating to Barnsley Foodbank. If you would like to get in touch with them, their telephone number is 07741414810.

My constituency office remains open to help all those who need assistance. Please call  01226 743 483 or email stephanie.peacock.mp@parliament.uk.