Food banks ‘not political’

Hugo Swire at the food bank in Sidmouth with Ian Skinner and volunteers Renee Forth and Margaret New

Hugo Swire at the food bank in Sidmouth with Ian Skinner and volunteers Renee Forth and Margaret Newman. Ref shs 5871-17-15TI. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

The latest politician to drop in at the Sid Valley Food Bank was the Conservative vying to be re-elected as East Devon’s MP – who insisted that the issue is not a political one.

Hugo Swire said it was important to avoid users becoming dependent on the food bank and they should be encouraged to learn to cook for themselves.

The centre, based in the Unitarian Church, has also been visited by Labour’s parliamentary candidate Steve Race, and Claire Wright, who is standing as an independent.

“We have to be careful to instil the idea of responsibility,” said Mr Swire. “There will always be people who can’t manage their own affairs.”

The Sid Valley Food Bank opened in 2012, under the Coalition, but he said: “As the Archbishop of Canterbury said, this is a complex issue and not a political issue.

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“I think it’s a very useful role for the churches and the community to play and one that’s always gone on in one way or another. It’s what the Big Society is about.

“The key is to encourage people who come to understand why they are coming.”

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Mr Swire added: “No one should have to be dependent on a food bank. What concerns me is the elderly people who are perhaps not getting enough to eat, but are embarrassed and feel it’s beneath them.”

Seventy volunteers run the food bank, which links with 12 other community organisations to

take a multilateral approach to welfare.

Mrs Wright described her visit as ‘sobering’ and said: “It’s so important that politicians speak to people from all walks of life.”

She met a man who could not afford to feed himself in the winter, and although he fared better in the summer, jobs were difficult to reach by public transport.

Mr Race said: “Visiting the Sid Valley Food Bank - one of three food banks in the East Devon constituency - brought home to me the tough situations that people face.

“We need a Government that works to ensure people don’t have to access food banks.”

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