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Food banks on the rise in Britain

Updated: 2015-03-30 07:40
By Agence France-Presse in Camborne (China Daily)

Clutching a bag of pasta, canned pears and beef, David Kirk leaves a food bank in one of Britain's poorest corners - his sixth visit in a few weeks.

"It's certainly a big help," the tattooed 54-year-old said as he loaded the free supplies into his car in the town of Camborne in Cornwall in the southwest of England.

"My wife has been diagnosed with cancer, and I'm not able to work at the moment," Kirk said.

The growing numbers of Britons turning to food banks run by charities to get by has become a key political issue weeks from a May 7 general election.

The first question thrown at Prime Minister David Cameron in a prime time television grilling on Thursday was about how many food banks had sprung up during his five years in power.

Cameron parried, saying his government had created jobs to lift people out of poverty and rejected the idea of a "broken Britain".

But the reality looks different at a food bank in the backroom of a church in Camborne on a peninsula famous for its beaches, holiday homes and rich history.

It is less known for being one of the country's poorest regions, with average wages of around $21,300 a year - five times lower than in London, according to European Union data.

Near a piano covered with a blanket and old Bibles, volunteers fill bags with vegetables, tea, rice and other staples.

Nicola Bacca, 32, came with her daughter and said her benefits had been cut "through no fault of our own".

"That left us with very little money," said Bacca, who has four children and complained that all of her money was used up paying bills.

"Food is the final thing on the list and with four children? You got to feed them."

The Camborne food bank opened in 2009 in the wake of the global financial crisis.

A former tin-producing town, Camborne has never truly recovered from the closure of its mines - their remains still visible under encroaching vegetation.

The poverty here is no anomaly.

Britain has at least 850 food banks and more and more are opening every year, according to a parliamentary inquiry into hunger in the country released last year.

Over the 2013-14 tax year, the Trussell Trust, which runs around 400 food banks, served meals to 913,000 people, compared to 61,500 in 2010-11.


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