Welfare State

Hunger in the UK: as in the US, working people suffer too

The New York Times reports from Britain:

The working poor, long a part of the social landscape in the United States, are becoming more common on this side of the Atlantic. As their numbers grow, so too does hunger… It is no longer confined to the homeless or those struggling to make ends meet on state benefits in the world’s sixth-richest economy, say charities, economists and even some members of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party.

In Britain, five years of economic weakness, austerity and rising prices have left a mark: Average hourly earnings have risen a mere 7 percent while the cost of living has gone up by almost 20 percent, leaving at least 500,000 people here reliant on food aid, three times as many as a year ago, according to the Trussell Trust, a Christian charity that runs a network of more than 400 food banks. The trust says the number of people it fed in the eight months since April has risen twentyfold since the onset of the financial crisis in 2008.

Food banks distribute food free of charge or at heavy discounts to people generally referred to them by government agencies. They have sprung up in unlikely places, from southern commuter towns to Westminster, a stone’s throw from Buckingham Palace. Steve Baker, a Conservative lawmaker, says that one in five children in his southern constituency of Wycombe goes to bed hungry, calling the figure a “scandalous indictment of the safety net that is the welfare state.”

There’s a slide show here.