Baroness Jenkin apologises after claiming “poor people don’t know how to cook” at launch of report into hunger

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington

Baroness Jenkin of Kennington

A peer has apologised after claiming “poor people don’t know how to cook” as she helped launch a report looking at why food aid has dramatically increased over the last decade.

Baroness Jenkin, who is married to Essex MP Bernard Jenkin, said that one of the reasons people needed charity was because they were unable to prepare meals for themselves.

She said at the event hunger stemmed in part from the disappearance of the knowledge needed to create cheap and nourishing meals.

“We have lost our cooking skills,” said Lady Jenkin. “Poor people don’t know how to cook.

“I had a large bowl of porridge today, which cost 4p. A large bowl of sugary cereals will cost you 25p.”

But she later apologised on a BBC lunchtime radio show, saying she had “made a mistake” and had been “stupidly speaking unscripted”.

The comments came as leading church figures, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, joined politicians from across Parliament to launch a blueprint to eliminate hunger in Britain by 2020.

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The Feeding Britain report was prompted by concern over the “unprecedented” numbers of people depending on food banks in the UK.

It called for action to speed the processing of benefits to ensure new claimants are not left for weeks without an income; stop “rip-off” companies charging higher prices to the poor; and end the “scandal” which sees millions of tonnes of waste food destroyed by supermarkets and food manufacturers.

Despite the “astonishing” levels of food being binned, hunger “stalks large parts” of the country, the Most Rev Justin Welby warned ahead of the publication of the report.

The All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK found that, since the establishment of the Trussell Trust network in 2004, numbers of emergency food assistance providers have grown to at least 1,500, including 800 food banks - around half of them operated by the Trust.

The Department for Work and Pensions has previously argued that there is “no robust evidence” to suggest that welfare reforms or benefit administration are linked to increased use of food banks.

Those opening up new food banks say they are responding to a need that has always existed but that welfare reform has exacerbated. But critics say food banks opening up and offering free food only creates more demand.

Earlier this year Lord Tebbit said “there is always a near-infinite demand for valuable goods that are given away free”.

He also implied that those relying for their basic foods on food banks were spending their money on junk food.