Volunteers look to change perceptions about major issue

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The Todmorden Food Drop-in committee is aiming to change perceptions about why people need to use food banks.

The move follows a debate in Parliament about food banks which featured some comments about which the committee were not happy.

In the run-up to the debate, a number of volunteers wrote to Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker to highlight the situation in the local area.

But they were not pleased with his letter of response.

Janet Garner, of the committee, said: “Craig Whittaker states that the reasons people use the Todmorden Food Drop-in include debt, missed benefit interviews, mortgage arrears, drug abuse and gambling.

“This is highly judgemental and fits with the government mantra of ‘the undeserving poor’.

“Most sensible people in the valley are well aware of the changes in the welfare benefit system which leads to people having their benefits withdrawn for the slightest perceived infringement.

“Debt and mortgage arrears are accrued for all sorts of reasons: reduction in disability benefits, low wages, zero hour contracts and insecure employment, the bedroom tax, and increase in food and fuel prices.

“Many of the people coming to us are facing the choice of eating or heating - a great concern when there are children in the family.”

She said the government money that was used for emergency loans for those in need has been slashed and people are being sent to food banks instead.

“The government mantra is that we must all tighten our belts and share the load,” she said.

“What this ignores is that the poor and those on low pay or benefits were already on subsistence levels of income.

“Any further cuts tip people over into total poverty.

“This is what we are now seeing.”