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Is austerity driving people to food banks? That’s an easy one | Letters | Society

It’s welcome news that the UK government could be finally waking up to the fact that its policies are driving people to food banks (Ministers’ secret plan to assess role of austerity in food poverty, 2 August).

Government researchers won’t have to look far to find the existing evidence that the fundamental problem is one of low income. Benefit reforms, including the devastating rollout of universal credit, are unquestionably and directly linked to increased food bank use. Even those in work know it is not a route out of poverty, thanks to low wages and the proliferation of insecure contracts.

The solutions are at ministers’ fingertips: all that’s needed is the political will to enact them. Clearly, the government must act urgently to end the benefit freeze and rethink the welfare reforms that are leaving so many people across the country reliant on charity handouts. It’s the only way of preventing food banks from becoming a permanent feature of our society.
Mary Anne MacLeod
Research and policy officer, A Menu for Change

• I wonder how the executives and wealthy shareholders of Amazon (Amazon halves its UK corporation tax as profits treble, 3 August) and Apple, the world’s first trillion dollar company (Report, 3 August) are spending their summer holidays this year? However and wherever they are choosing to enjoy their leisure, perhaps they could spare a thought for the many thousands of hungry children whose only outing this year will be a trip to local food banks? (Food banks appeal for donations to feed children over holidays, 3 August).
Cathy Wood
Lichfield, Staffordshire

• There is already strong evidence for the connection between welfare reforms, delays in payment of welfare benefits and the rise in demand for food banks. The planned DWP research has the potential to add detail to the extant picture, but it will not explore the more important issue of understanding how reforms and payment delays impact on food poverty. Uptake of food bank services is shaped by the location, ethos and prevailing practice of food bank providers. Those receiving food bank help are not representative of the broader population who are in need, and food banks are not the only way food poverty is responded to. The DWP study should include attempts to access the food poor beyond food banks and consider how food poverty is best measured.
Neil Small
Bradford

• I’m so pleased to read that ministers are going to investigate whether their policies are to blame for the rise in the use of food banks. This shouldn’t take more than half a day, so perhaps they could then turn their minds to the question of whether the pope is, indeed, a Catholic.
Della Kerr
Darlington, County Durham

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