Moray Foodbank leader gives evidence of ten-fold demand increase

Moray MSP Richard Lochhead at the launch of Community Food Moray in December 2012.

Just days after a Moray foodbank charity revealed calls on their services had doubled in recent months a Scottish Parliamentary committee learned that over the full year demand had actually increased ten-fold.

Giving evidence to the Welfare Reform Committee at the Scottish Parliament this week Jo Roberts from Community Food Moray said that 26 people were receiving food parcels in January 2013 – but by January this year that had risen to over 300.

Ms Roberts told MSP’s that the surge in demand happened ‘almost overnight’ – and followed the introduction of benefit changes by the UK Government in April last year.

The depth of the problem was further underlined by the Elgin-based charity who were seeing an increase in ‘cold food’ parcels – because recipients could not afford to use their cookers and microwaves.

Community Food Moray and a second organisation, Moray Food Bank, have clients from throughout Moray’s community, creating food parcels from goods donated by the public.

Both organisations say that the increase in demand for their services is directly related to new benefit sanctions, the bedroom tax and delays in the payment of crisis loans.

Ms Roberts said: “The biggest reason (for increased demand) is welfare – benefit sanctions have the biggest impact and people have to take the decision whether to heat or eat because they cannot get help for both.

“On our referral forms we ask people about cooking facilities and most have them but they cannot use them because they cannot afford to put electricity in the meter.”

The Moray charity is saying that a review on the cost of food and energy supplies as well as travel is vital.

Last night a member of the Scottish Parliament’s Welfare Committee, Jamie Hepburn MSP, said that over 56,000 people throughout Scotland were now using foodbanks – and increase of over 300% on last year.

He added: “It is no surprise that the Trussell Trust has found benefit delays and changes are behind at least half of all foodbank referrals.

“Last month, a report from Citizen’s Advice Scotland also pointed to changes to the benefit system as the reason for increasing use. Westminster cuts are penalising the poor and risk pushing up to 100,000 children in Scotland into poverty by 2020.

“We are now in the unbelievable position of seeing the gains made in tackling child poverty with devolution under threat from the Tories propped up by their Lib Dem partners.”

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