Durkan: Food bank use a symptom of poverty levels in Derry

Mark Durkan said food banks were a 'coping mechanism' for many people
Mark Durkan said food banks were a 'coping mechanism' for many people

SDLP Foyle MP Mark Durkan has said the number of food banks and people using them have risen in Derry and across these islands as people find it harder and harder to cope as the cost of living rises while benefits and wages are squeezed or frozen.

Mr Durkan, a member of recently formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty and Food, was speaking after Rotary Foyle announced today that they have handed out around 10 emergency food parcels a day since they opened in May.

Mr Durkan said: “These telling figures on food bank use are a symptom of the poverty levels which are hurting people in Derry and elsewhere.

“The number of food banks and the numbers using them have risen across these islands as people find it harder and harder to cope as the cost of living rises while benefits and wages are squeezed or frozen.

“This does not only impact those who are out of work. It is the ‘working poor’ and households who have low and marginal incomes who are also using food banks – including those hit by particular bills at particular times, or for example because of an illness in the family.

“As we approach the winter months with people having to pay heavier fuel bills to keep their homes warm, that is also going to mean less money for food.

“As a member of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Poverty and Food (which we formed during this parliament) I have heard from food bank operators of the different factors and features in food bank use.

“The evidence from long-standing food banks shows that they are a coping mechanism for people in all age groups, people living alone as well as families, people in work on low incomes, people on benefits and very markedly people whose benefits have been interrupted by Welfare Reform measures.

“The insight from local food bank experience bears these points out even without us yet having the extended implementation of Welfare Reform with its impact not just on the levels of benefits but on access to them while decisions and appeals are awaited.”