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Food Poverty

Volume 589: debated on Thursday 11 December 2014

15. What estimate her Department has made of the number of people who used emergency food aid in the last 12 months; and what steps the Government are taking to reduce food poverty. (906587)

As I said earlier, the recent report by the all-party parliamentary group on hunger and food poverty concluded that people turned to food aid for complex reasons. The Government believe that the best way to help people out of poverty is to help them into work, and with that in mind we have created 1.7 million jobs since 2010. We are also helping the most vulnerable to have access to food by means of, for instance, free school meals and improvements in the welfare system.

The Minister may speak of “complex reasons”, but every week my office and I deal with people who have lost their benefits because of sanctions or confusion over delays in the payment of disability living allowance. This weekend I met a woman who had £1.37 to get her through the next week. Will the Government acknowledge that their decisions and their aggressive sanctioning are driving hundreds of thousands of people to food banks?

In fact, the timeliness of benefit payments has improved: 90% of payments are now made on time, which is an improvement on the position under the last Government. As for sanctions, the Department for Work and Pensions and jobcentres are ensuring that hardship payments are available to those who need them because they have been sanctioned.

Is it not a plain fact that pre-prepared food costs much more than food that is cooked at home? Will my hon. Friend join me in praising schools that teach children from both poor and wealthy families how to cook?

My hon. Friend has made a very good point. Our new school curriculum for primary schools includes learning to prepare basic dishes and understand more about food. If we can teach people to prepare their own food, they will find that it is often far cheaper than pre-packaged food.