Why I’m going hungry for one day

Glyn and Ambrin Williams loading up Phil Riley, co-ordinator at the East Suffolk FoodBank in Lowesto

Glyn and Ambrin Williams loading up Phil Riley, co-ordinator at the East Suffolk FoodBank in Lowestoft with donated items - Credit: Archant

Southwold-based Glyn Williams and his family are fasting and fundraising on 4 April for the National EndHungerFast Day of Action on 4 April, here he explains why

On Friday morning this week, I will wake up hungry, ready for breakfast as always, like most getting up across the UK. As a restaurant consultant and food writer, eating plays a big part in my life, as it does to those going hungry across Britain. Echoing the stark reality for many of these 12 million people living below the poverty line, my family won’t be consuming anything other than water in our household that morning and for the rest of the day. Our empty stomachs on EndHungerFast Day on 4 April and many other supporters not eating intentionally across the UK will raise awareness of the starvation problem going on, here and now, in our developed Western nation, not a poor Third World country (find out more at www.endhungerfast.co.uk).

I am sure you won’t have missed the success of the FoodBank network, which has grown up so rapidly, perhaps seeing volunteers collecting tins during your weekly shop or their vans distributing boxes of basic food rations in your town or village. It is great to experience such benevolence and practical concern from kind-hearted folk for those less well-off and unable to feed themselves.

There are now over 400 FoodBanks across the UK, the vast majority opened with the help of an amazing Christian charity, The Trussell Trust, working quietly but determinedly in local partnership with churches and community projects (www.trusselltrust.org).

Our local scheme is the East Suffolk FoodBank, which, based out of Lowestoft, actually works through the coastal towns across to Beccles and down to Saxmundham, including, perhaps surprisingly, affluent Aldeburgh and Southwold. Poverty and hunger are no respecters of property prices or class – every district council parish in our East Suffolk FoodBank coverage has received emergency food parcels (www.eastsuffolk.foodbank.org.uk)

It saddens us greatly that the populist press sees fit to drag this welfare necessity into the mire of party political point-scoring, highlighting those it claims to have caught ‘milking the system’. I am glad to dispel some of the tabloids’ myths, which harm support for the FoodBanks to respond to very evident starvation.

- Someone in need cannot just turn up at a FoodBank and ask for food, they will automatically be signposted to welfare professionals such as doctors or social workers for assessment.

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- Only these trained experts can issue one-off FoodBank vouchers, each on a case-by-case basis.

- A FoodBank voucher allocates a three-day ration of emergency food and soft drink supplies to temporarily tide clients over whilst more permanent solutions are actioned by social services and state benefits.

- The rations are long-life and basic, not luxuries, such as dried pasta, baked beans, soup, tinned meat, cereal, UHT milk, fruit juice, teabags etc.

- FoodBanks are not there for ‘a free weekly shop’, they do not see the sheer majority of their clients more than three times in a year (85% in the case of East Suffolk FoodBank). In fact if four vouchers have been given to the same person annually, the agencies which issued them will be contacted to ensure the statutory welfare system responds to resolve their case.

Here are just a few snippets of my interview with Phil Riley, co-ordinator of East Suffolk FoodBank:

“We’re the busiest we have ever been, since April last year we have helped over 3,300 children and adults in crisis. Compare Christmas 2012 supporting 175 people in crisis to last Christmas with 631 welfare cases. And it has worsened since, January last to January this year saw a rise from 85 people helped to 427, more than a five-fold increase.

…The people who get into crisis come from all parts of the community from babies to pensioners. We have had 38 different reasons why people have been referred to us with vouchers, including flooding, house fires, delayed wages, unemployment, low income, benefit changes, family break-up and theft.

…What is so amazing about the FoodBank is the generosity of the general public. In one year, they have donated over 27 metric tons of food to the project and we have issued out 26.5 tons. We have never had to ask for money to buy food because of our success in collecting but we do rely on funders and public donations for financial support to cover our annual costs such as warehousing and transport and of course the help from a small hard-working army of amazing volunteers.”

Please sponsor us?

I hope you see now why we are going hungry to support the UK’s FoodBanks, could you help our fundraising effort, it would be so appreciated…

We aim to raise £1,000+ for The Trussell Trust to help swiftly expand the desperately-needed FoodBank network to cover every village in the UK.

You can donate online at www.justgiving.com/williamsfast or via your mobile phone by text-donating up to £10 –message EHFN99 leaving a space and adding your pounds amount, eg £5 to 70070.

You can also post cheque donations (payable to East Suffolk FoodBank) to East Suffolk FoodBank, Gunton Baptist Church, Montgomery Avenue, Lowestoft NR32 4DZ.

Thank you in advance on behalf of starving families everywhere.