Food Banks

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2014 National Women's Conference
17 October 2013

Conference notes that in 2012, the national women’s committee brought a motion to conference highlighting the resurgence of food banks across the UK. At that time, it was reported that in September 2011, 130 food banks were feeding up to 100,000 people.

It is shocking to note that the Trussell Trust now has 400 food banks operating, feeding around 350,000 people in the past year, 125,000 of those being children.

It is well known that the cuts in public services are having a disproportionate impact on women, as the services they rely on and the services they provide are being targeted for cuts, forcing them into low paid, part time work or unemployment. Women escaping domestic violence or family breakdown have no alternative other than to seek help from the food banks as benefits are delayed and crisis loans refused.

UNISON members, particularly low paid women members and lone parents (90% of whom are women), are being forced to seek help in this way, as rising food and energy prices, wage freezes and redundancy impact on their ability to support themselves and their families. Their reliance on food banks puts further pressure on families who are already struggling, and many feel a sense of shame which is in no way deserved.

The growth of food banks is yet another example of this government’s callous disregard for the most vulnerable in society; its development of policy which damages women and children’s lives and protects the wealthy at the cost of ordinary people.

Conference therefore calls upon the national women’s committee to :

• Encourage branch and regional women’s groups to liaise with local community organisations and public sector alliances to support those most in need, and to campaign jointly to raise public awareness of the impact that this government’s policies are having on the most vulnerable in our society, particularly highlighting the return to food banks;

• Work with UNISON Welfare “There for You” to ensure that members are aware of the assistance available to members in crisis;

• Encourage members who can afford to do so to support food banks with donations of less popular items – particularly sanitary protection, toiletries, baby products, which are often overlooked by donors;

• Work with the NEC in continuing to oppose and challenge poor government policy which impacts on our members lives.