Liberal Democrats – Building a fairer, greener and more caring future
By Frances Kneller, Liberal Democrat Unitary Candidate for Chesham and candidate for Chesham Town Council
Originally published by Chesham and Amersham Liberal Democrats
A year on from the start of the pandemic, there has been an unprecedented rise in the need for food bank help. The Government put in place schemes to support family finances in the wake of Covid-19, but too many households are falling through the gaps. Vast numbers of people are coming to food banks for the first time in their lives and children left unprotected from poverty and its lifelong effects.
However, there had been a consistent annual increase in use of foodbanks before 2020. Illness, disability, family breakdown or the loss of a job can happen to anyone, and more and more people have been left struggling to feed themselves because they simply cannot afford to buy food and the bare essentials. That struggle has turned to real hardship and destitution for some in the last year, and we haven't seen the true economic impact of either the pandemic or Brexit yet.
Who would have thought that a foodbank would be needed here in Chesham, in one of the richest local authority areas in the UK? Yet in and around Chesham, there has been a big increase in the number of people needing emergency food parcels. In the last year alone over 57,800 meals were provided. However, it shouldn't be just left to charities to do the job our social security safety net should be doing. Fundamental changes are required, so that everyone should be able to put food on the table and not just survive but be able to thrive. Foodbanks are one of the ultimate symbols of the decade of Tory austerity and failure.
Liberal Democrats believe that we shouldn't accept foodbanks as a 'new normal', but we should be working to create a more dignified, compassionate and just society where everyone has enough money for the essentials - a future where no one needs to depend on a foodbank. Councils in England also need significant extra investment in local welfare assistance from central government, so they can provide emergency cash grants that can put money directly into people's pockets quickly. An increase in funding to local authorities in England would help bring this type of support closer to that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. But more than half of councils (63%) were forced to reduce spending on these schemes between 2015 and 2019 whilst more people than ever need the help they can provide.
To support and complement the war on food waste and poverty, we have the innovative, environmental initiative - the Chesham Community Fridge. Open to all, the project has already saved 120 tonnes of edible food going to landfill. Like the foodbank, this involves another fantastic band of local volunteers showing the positive benefits of what can happen when the community works together with grassroots support and protects each other and the environment. We saw it in Chesham during the health crisis, and we need it to continue as we fight for social justice.
Liberal Democrats - Demand Better for Chesham & Amersham