Food banks are damaging local grocery shops, former MP Edwina Currie has claimed this week, after visiting a network of food banks run by a Buxton man.
After reading recent comments made by the outspoken Ms Currie about food banks, Marc Godwin invited her to see firsthand the work carried out by such organisations at the network of food banks he runs in Stockport.
And Edwina visited the Chelwood food bank last Thursday, accompanied by a film crew from the BBC Daily Politics Show.
Marc said: “She came along and said several outrageous things. I had a difference of opinion with her on several things. She basically said that there are so many jobs, it’s so easy to get a job that there’s really no need for people to come to food banks.
“She also said people using food banks should get a grip.
“This is an absolute crisis point in their lives but she seemed to think it was the same people turning up day in day out and helping themselves to food. It doesn’t work like that. We only take three referrals in a six-month period and every single one is assessed before being sent to us.”
He added: “It was a bit like going back in time to the 1980s when the haves couldn’t give a damn about the have nots.”
But Marc still feels as though it was a worthwhile experience. “There’s been a lot of positive publicity and it’s made people more aware,” he said.
Commenting after her visit, Edwina, who lives in Whaley Bridge, said: “Another week, another visit to a food bank run by kind community-spirited people quite certain that they are doing God’s work. I admire them enormously.
“We agree that there are some people in need (they’re convinced it’s 100 per cent of their clients! I’m not, human nature being what it is). Where we disagree is what good it does to hand them a bagful of tins, with instructions to go seek whatever other help they need elsewhere.
“Those people with grave problems such as addictions or mental illness need professional services, well-run and funded.
“But local authorities find these expensive, so they’ve started giving the money to food banks instead. Those users with temporary issues should be encouraged to face their mistakes and deal with them.
“One poor lady I met in Stockport had not told her family about her worries, though she was willing to pour her heart out to a stranger (me); had she done so, I’m sure they would have rallied round. Being given some freebies and told it’s all the government’s fault merely perpetuates the problem, and postpones the day when she turns a corner.
“Marc says he wants to start job advisers and debt counselling, but these are beyond his resources. That’s because everything’s going into the food bank. Meanwhile, since he’s handing out £50,000 of free food annually, he’s damaging those grocery shops nearby run by ordinary families who are trying to pay their way through their own hard work.
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions, they say, and this is likely to be one sad example.”