Food for thought as MP row builds

Photo Neil Cross: Annette Smith of the Morecambe Bay Foodbank that has collected six tonnes of food in a week, enough for 10,000 meals.
Photo Neil Cross: Annette Smith of the Morecambe Bay Foodbank that has collected six tonnes of food in a week, enough for 10,000 meals.

Around 15% of the hungry people who use Morecambe Bay Foodbank live in Lancaster, figures have revealed.

Demand for the Morecambe-based service, which dishes out food to needy people, continues to rise – with Skerton West having the highest percentage of users from Lancaster wards.

Most of the people who rely on the foodbank live in Morecambe and Heysham, with a small percentage from other areas such as Overton.

Figures revealed by the foobank show that in 2014:

nThe foodbank was used 3,184 times, including 1,107 by children, compared to 2,822 times in 2013 (996 by children)

nUse of the foodbank rose by 11% in the peak months (October, November, December) compared to the same period in 2013

nThe foodbank had 986 unique adult users

n1,632 parcels of food were given out

nDelays in benefits was the biggest reason for needing to use the foodbank

The centre, which relies on donations from the public, took in 39.8 tonnes of food in 2014, 55% of which was from local supermarkets.

The figures were unveiled as a row rumbles on between the foodbank, run by charity the Trussell Trust, and Morecambe MP David Morris. Mr Morris claimed during a debate in Parliament on food poverty that he’d never been invited to the centre. Annette Smith, co-ordinator of Morecambe Foodbank, wrote to Mr Morris on December 30 inviting him to visit the foodbank, and claimed she had asked him to visit on four previous occasions.

Mr Morris denied he had received any formal invitation, and said he would visit the foodbank once he’d received “full and accurate figures” and if the chairman or chief executive of the Trussell Trust and the head of social services for Lancaster went with him.

Mr Morris, a Conservative, said: “I know that the Trussell Trust in my area and nationally have links to the Labour party. I am not prepared to go to Morecambe Foodbank without any correct figures for a party political meeting on behalf of the Labour party. I want to have a meaningful conversation about why people in my constituency are using the foodbank.”

Mrs Smith said: “It is essential that all foodbanks have connections with their Government representatives in order to address the reasons why we are needed in the first place. A visit to our foodbank would provide all the information that Mr Morris has asked for.”

Morecambe Bay Foodbank provides food parcels to people referred to them by agencies including the Citizen’s Advice Bureau and children’s centres. Parcels contain provision for three days at a minimum of three meals a day.

Main areas using foodbank

Poulton 28.83%

Harbour (includes West End) 13.03%

Heysham North 9.64%

Westgate 6.38%

Skerton West 5.5%

Main reasons given for using food bank

Benefit delays 40.83%

Low income 18.47%

Benefit changes 17.05%

Homeless 2.17%

Sickness 1.85%

(Other 13.79%)

Places referring people to foodbank the most

Citizens Advice Bureau 39.58%

Morecambe Foyer 11.76%

Poulton and Heysham Children’s Centres 11.7%

Help Direct 10.78%

Homestart 5.15%

(Other 21.02%)