Ulster Unionist Assembly Member Michael McGimpsey has paid tribute to the work of foodbanks and their volunteers operating across Northern Ireland including those working in and around South Belfast.
Mr McGimpsey spoke during a debate in the Assembly on the work of foodbanks providing food for the most vulnerable in our society who find themselves in crisis.
In a statement Mr McGimpsey said, “I find it a sad indictment on our society that as the sixth richest country on earth many of our people are in such distress that they are dependent upon the hand outs of charity to survive. The first foodbank was established in the year 2000 and we now have over 255 operating across the UK. In 2012 it is expected that 200,000 people in the UK will be fed by foodbanks.”
“Oxfam have described the conditions that have led to this situation as ‘The Perfect Storm’ and I agree. Falling incomes, rising prices, public service cuts, benefit cuts, a housing crisis and weak labour rights have all led to people in ever increasing numbers being forced into poverty. Those affected are not only those on benefits but hard working families struggling to meet rising living costs on reduced incomes. For example in the past five years food costs have increased by 30.5% while the minimum wage has only increased by 12.5%.”
“More than 40,000 children in Northern Ireland are living in poverty while every day 13,000 primary school children go to school with no breakfast. This undoubtedly affects their concentration levels and achievement at school while 26% of parents in poverty are skipping meals just to cover basic living costs. It is staggering that this is happening in Northern Ireland in 2012.”
In conclusion Mr McGimpsey said, “I would like to pay tribute to all the volunteers in churches and community groups across Northern Ireland who are collecting and distributing food to the most vulnerable in our society. I fear that with the upcoming benefit reforms that there is going to be ever increasing demand for their services from many families across Northern Ireland.”