Conservative MP sparks fury by saying there is not a ‘massive use’ for food banks in UK

·4-min read
Conservative MP sparks fury by saying there is not a ‘massive use’ for food banks in UK

A Conservative MP has sparked fury by claiming there is not a “massive use” for food banks in the UK.

Ashfield MP Lee Anderson, who was speaking during a Commons debate, suggested people use them because they “cannot cook properly” and “cannot budget”.

The public is facing the biggest drop in living standards since records began in 1956 amid the cost of living crisis, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility.

Meanwhile, food prices are rising by seven per cent a year in the UK - the highest rate for 30 years - and household energy bills have soared to a record-high.

SNP MP Joanna Cherry challenged Mr Anderson’s comments as she said people do not use food banks because they do not know how to cook but because “we have poverty in this country at a scale that should shame his government”.

Mr Anderson, however, said meals could be cooked from scratch “for about 30 pence a day” as he invited “everybody” on the opposition benches to visit a food bank in Ashfield.

“When people come now for a food parcel, they have to register for a budgeting course and a cooking course.” He said.

“And what we do in the food bank, we show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget.”

Intervening, Labour MP Alex Cunningham (Stockton North) asked: “Should it be necessary to have food banks in 21st century Britain?”

Mr Anderson replied: “I invite you personally to come to Ashfield, look at our food bank, how it works and I think you will see first hand that there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country but generation after generation who cannot cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch.

“They cannot budget. The challenge is there. Come, come. I’ll offer anybody.”

Mr Anderson’s comments have prompted outrage from MPs, charities and campaigners.

Shadow work and pensions minister Karen Buck blasted the “out of touch” comments.

She said: “The idea that the problem is cooking skills and not 12 years of Government decisions that are pushing people into extreme poverty is beyond belief.”

Sumi Rabindrakumar, head of policy at the Trussell Trust, said: “Food bank need in the UK is about lack of income, not food.

“Everyone should have enough money in their pockets to afford the essentials but people at food banks are telling us they’re skipping meals to feed their children and requesting food products that don’t need heating because they can’t afford to switch on the oven.

“For millions of families on the very lowest incomes, this isn’t a cost of living crisis, it’s about the cost of surviving. Cooking from scratch won’t help families keep the lights on or put food on the table, if they don’t have enough money in their pockets.”

Andrew Forsey, National Director of the charity Feeding Britain, told the Standard: “This time last year, the queues outside food banks were mercifully beginning to shorten.

“Our country was demonstrating that the growing need for food banks is not inevitable. But following the government’s decision last autumn to cut universal credit by £20 a week, the window of opportunity we had to continue shortening those queues appears to have been slammed shut.

“As a result, and with incomes now lagging way behind the cost of living, charities like ours are increasingly dealing with outright destitution where people cannot afford the gas and electricity they need to cook meals from scratch.”

Blasting the comments, anti poverty campaigner Jack Monroe tweeted: “You can’t cook meals from scratch with nothing. You can’t buy cheap food with nothing. The issue is not ‘skills’, it’s 12 years of Conservative cuts to social support.”

Latest figures the Trussell Trust show more than 2.1 million people received a food parcel from the charity from April 1 last year to March 31, 2022.

More than 283,000 emergency food parcels were distributed across London which saw the highest demand out of any region in the UK.

At the time it released its annual report in April, the charity said it was witnessing an “an accelerating crisis across the UK as the need for emergency food dramatically increased in the past six months”.

This follows the £20-a-week cut to Universal Credit and the soaring rise in living costs that people are facing, they added.

It warned last month that things are set to get worse as the cost of living crisis continues.

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