The following appeared as my column in the Barnsley Chronicle on 19th February:

This week I visited FareShare Yorkshire at their centre in Wombwell, to make a donation and see how they were continuing to cope and support local residents in the current climate.

FareShare is the UK’s largest food charity, made up of a network of 17 independent food redistribution organisations, which take surplus food from the food industry and deliver it to charities such as foodbanks, homeless hostels, domestic violence refuges and day centres.

Foodbanks have become an all-too-common sight in our communities over the past decade. I am sure you will share my frustration that in one of the globe’s leading economies, we’ve reached a point where people have to rely on the charity of others to feed their families. This is a harsh reality that began long before COVID-19, with stark increases in poverty over the last ten years under this Government.

It is very worrying that nearly four million children are living in poverty in the UK, with that number only set to rise. No child should go hungry, and I have consistently voiced my support and commitment to introduce free school meals for all primary school children, which would make a huge difference to both health and educational attainment.

Sadly, organisations such as FareShare have become necessary as poverty and hunger have increased, and their work has become even more important during the pandemic. This past year has been incredibly difficult for our community. We’ve just had a winter where we have had to witness the heart breaking almost Victorian scenes of people having to queue in the snow for food, and FareShare have already seen their demand increase three-fold over the period.

Campaigns to tackle and alleviate child poverty and holiday hunger are something I have supported for a long time. In my previous role as a teacher, I saw first-hand the negative impact that hungry children can have on their learning and as such will continue to support FareShare and all efforts to ensure local residents don’t go hungry.

I would urge you to donate to your local foodbank if you are able to do so. Every pound you donate helps them provide four meals for people in need across the area, and you can find more information on the Barnsley Foodbank website about the items they particularly need.

In 2021, no one should be struggling to put food on the table. We need a proper strategy to tackle this issue, and I will continue to press the Government to take urgent action to tackle child poverty and holiday hunger both during the pandemic and as we recover from this crisis in the years ahead.

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