Monday, 25 August 2014

Food Poverty – it’s time to get angry.

The growing number of people in our country who are going hungry has been something which has shocked and out-raged many of us over recent times. This week the Scottish Government gave out an additional £500,000 through its Emergency Food Fund. But this money, although welcome, will not stem the rising tide of hunger and human misery. There will be those who will argue that all will be resolved following the outcome of the Referendum but the problems which exist this month will still be here at the end of next month. Neither a change of nationhood nor a change of government will suffice. What we need is a profound change of attitude. increasingly long for a growing sense of outrage that this is happening in our country – one of the richest in the world. One of the ways we generate that outrage is when the real stories of real people are told. It is on this basis that I am sharing – in full – the contents of a recent newsletter that I received from Bridging the Gap (a great organisation based in the Gorbals) thanking those who support its destitution cupboard.

Read it and be encouraged at the extraordinary resilience of incredible people. Read it and be thankful that organisations like Bridging the Gap do the amazing work that they do. But above all, read it and be outraged. And then turn that outrage into action. Volunteer. Write. Campaign. Tell your neighbours. Seek out the hungry. Hear their story. Become their friend.

News from the Bridging the Gap Destitution Food Cupboard August 2014

It’s been a while since we have updated those who support our food cupboard on what’s been happening. I’d love to say that this is because we’ve not been giving out food but sadly this is not the case. Most of those whom we see regularly are asylum-seekers who are not currently receiving any Government support. Often their cases are complicated and so difficult to process. We also see a number of people affected by welfare reform.

 Just today we have seen four people and perhaps describing this morning is a good way to give you an insight into how your support helps others. Names and exact circumstances of people have been changed.

First in today was Katy whom we had not met before. Her Jobseekers Allowance had been sanctioned leaving her destitute for several weeks. This was because her son had taken seriously ill and been admitted to hospital. She missed her signing-on appointment because she was looking after her grand-children. In the shock of what had happened she had forgotten to ask the DWP for permission to alter her signing time. She was clearly mortified at having to come for food and had come a long way to reach us. We hope she might come and join us at BIG Thursdays as she is very isolated where she is staying.

Next in was Mark, a smart young man who has been staying in supported accommodation. It was also his first visit to us and he had also been sanctioned by the DWP. He has just been given a flat and his money will start again next week. In the meantime he had no way of buying food. He is clearly looking forward to his fresh start. He kept saying how great it is that there are places in the city to help people like him. He may come back next week or we may never see him again. to come was Mary, an elderly African woman who has been waiting a long time for a decision in her asylum case. She currently gets no support from the Government. The system for allocating support is becoming increasingly inefficient with people waiting weeks and sometimes months for a decision on their support alone. During this time they are destitute without permission to work. Often they are homeless too, depending on the kindness of friends. This makes women in particular very vulnerable.

The fourth person brought good news. We had met Richard a year ago when he had become destitute for a period after he lost his job and home due to addiction issues. Through coming to us for food he started to come to our BIG Thursdays drop-in where he became part of the volunteer team. He was offered a really good job in June and popped in to see us as he is currently on leave. He wanted us to know that he has never forgotten how it felt to have to come for us to food and how much he’d appreciated our time with us. It was great to see him looking so well.

Finally, earlier this week Grant came in to see about volunteering with Bridging the Gap. He had come to us for a food bag a year ago when he was also sanctioned by the DWP. His situation has improved and he thought we would be a good place to come to continue to build his confidence.

Your gift to the Bridging the Gap Destitution Food Cupboard whether it’s in bags of groceries or a regular financial donation really does make a difference to the people who come for help. We’re looking forward to the day when the cupboard is no longer necessary because people no longer go hungry in our city of Glasgow.

Martin Johnstone


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