With inflation in the UK at a 40-year high and prices rising by 9%, the situation is becoming increasingly worrying for the greater UK. As a cloudy morning skies over Bradford, northern England, a steady stream is heading towards the food bank, fueled by the worst life crisis in decades, raising fears of a devastating winter. The food bank in the former industrial city of 500,000 residents has twice as many beneficiaries as before the pandemic. “Since I’ve been a volunteer, the numbers have only multiplied”, notes Carl Carroll, 33, a beneficiary before offering his help in 2019. “I have barely 40 pounds (47 euros) left after paying everything,” he told AFP.
Simon Jackson, 43, an unemployed ex-supermarket worker on health benefits, has been coming since February: “It’s tough right now…” Once all the bills are paid, about £900 more in monthly aid. Nothing is there for food. Rising prices only make things worse. “Places like here (…) save lives”, and “really help with decision-making, sometimes between heating and food”, he explains. According to the Trussell Trust charity, its more than 1,400 affiliated sites delivered 2.1 million parcels during the past year – including 830,000 for children – 14% more than in the period before the pandemic. In central Bradford, delivery takes place three times a week, and is limited to three parcels every six months to meet demand. The basic products are: cereals, soups, canned, pasta, vegetables, biscuits, sugar, tea or coffee.
boom in commodities
Existing since 2011, the distribution point is one of thirty in the city. According to director Josie Barlow, it has a thousand beneficiaries a month. According to the latest Government Poverty Index published in 2019, England’s population, the sixth in England, is the fifth most disadvantaged in terms of income and the sixth worst in terms of employment. “These are the ones who will earn the least income. The most suffer … They have to buy the basics, which have gone up a lot,” Barlow said. She welcomes new arrivals full of energy and with a smile on her face, directs them to the collection table, but also to the mentors. “We want to deliver a food parcel, but we really want to help people deal with the causes of their difficulties,” she explains.
She sees a “piece of society,” she says, where the unemployed and the workers walk side by side. For her, “there’s really no way”, she insists, “we can’t let people in distress, live like that long enough to survive”. After weeks of detour, Boris Johnson’s government on Thursday announced £15bn of support for the most vulnerable, ahead of a 42% increase in energy bills expected in October, following a 54% increase last month. It is not enough to overcome the fear that the worst is yet to come. Inflation, which is already at 9% and is expected to rise even higher in the coming months, will swallow up any additional support. “I’m afraid of the coming winter”, underlines the head of the food bank, “I really don’t know how people will survive”.
Simon Jackson, the beneficiary, fears the worst for Christmas: “Not so much for me, because I’m single, I’ll just put on an extra blanket”, “but who has kids (…) it’s really going to happen.” Tough”. Simone Hillhands, 34, has three children aged 10, 13 and 15. One of them is handicapped which prevents mom from working full time. It was the school that referred him to the food bank. Reluctant to elaborate on her situation, she admits that her sister recently found herself on the street and that the family is in a “very, very difficult” situation with prices rising. “They exploded, it’s crazy!”, she noted, despite the pandemic, “last year was a lot easier”.
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