Politicians need to talk more about food banks – says Lib Dem MP Candidate Claire Sully

Claire Sully, the Liberal Democrat parliamentary candidate for the new Bridgwater, Burnham and Highbridge constituency, has made it a priority to talk about food banks.

Claire visited Bridgwater’s Foodbank in Mount Street Bay Centre, where demand for services has increased by 250% since its foundation in 2013, as more and more residents and families become increasingly desperate amidst a Conservative-made cost-of-living crisis.

Phil Jarman and the foodbank, which in 2020 was awarded the Somerset Medal for Services to the Community, has helped feed around 40,000 people since its foundation by Ann Barnard and her late husband Keith.

In 2023 alone, the foodbank had 6,963 people require its services, including 2,810 children, with approximately 25% of the total number being members of working families, whose occupations include such crucial roles as teaching assistants, while pensioners are a rapidly increasing demographic being forced into visiting the foodbank.

The foodbank is sustained by up to 25 volunteers, who give up time in their day to enable people to access adequate food resources. The foodbank is funded entirely by donations from members of the public and local businesses, including Hinkley Point, who helped fund the new annex building, allowing the foodbank to better support people in need.

Phil Jarman, manager of the Bridgwater Foodbank, said the cost-of-living crisis was not only resulting in more people needing to use the facility, but was also having an effect on donations to help keep up with the increase in demand.

“People in Bridgwater and surrounding villages have been extremely generous, but more and more people are feeling the pinch, meaning donations are dropping,” he said.

“People need better support in a wide range of social services to simply get families back to where they need to be.”

After her visit, Claire said: “It is a failure of government that so many people are pushed into such desperate situations that they need to visit a foodbank to cater for the very basics in their need to survive.

“We need to bring back a decency and compassion to politics and treat people as human beings. The work of the courageous and generous volunteers who help sustain this life support for people is admirable, and I commend Ann and Phil and their wonderful team of volunteers on their commitment to providing for those in need.

“This visit provides a stark reality of how desperate life has become for some in society and as politicians we need to focus on finding a solution where we don’t need food banks in the first place, as MP I will do this.”

“Voters are faced with a clear choice at the election on July 4: better politics with Claire Sully and the Liberal Democrats which prioritises people, or more failure and decline under the Conservatives.”

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