Last week, Labour Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell took up my invitation to visit Garston and Halewood to meet the founder of Can Cook Kitchen Robbie Davidson. I wanted to show him the incredible work Can Cook are doing to combat food poverty in my constituency and how simply relying on food banks to deal with the immediate food crisis is not the answer. Watch the video below to see more.
Food poverty is a serious and increasingly common problem for many families. Relentless LibDemTory austerity cuts are pushing more and more families into crisis. The number of people forced to use food banks has seen a shocking increase over the past few years. Food poverty charity The Trussell Trust estimate that they are now handing out 28 times the number of emergency food parcels that they were providing in 2010 as the Tories seek to cut social security payments no matter what the consequences and as wages have stagnated or fallen and zero hours contracts have proliferated.
In response to this growing problem food banks have been set up in towns and cities across the country. They do great work in the community giving free food to those who cannot get food any other way, but there are limitations to what they can do. Often they only offer dried and tinned food and a typical 3 day emergency package does not cater for different dietary needs or preferences and often does not go together to make appetising or nutritious meals. Can Cook Kitchen aim to provide families in crisis with a fresh, nutritious alternative and give them the dignity of a choice about what they eat.
Established in 2007, the team at Can Cook have been running cooking classes and providing healthy meals to schools and care homes in Merseyside. As the number of people in food poverty has grown Robbie Davidson saw that Can Cook is in a unique position to help and so he put together a business model that allows him to put profits back into the community by making meals for people in crisis.
Most recently Can Cook launched the Share Your Lunch Campaign which set out with the ambitious aim of ending food poverty for children in Merseyside during the school holidays. Currently one in five children arrive at school hungry, and a YouGov poll suggests at least a third of teachers have bought food for pupils as a result of hunger in the classroom.
For many, the free school meals provided during term time are the only hot dinner their children will have all day. But during the six week summer holidays, thousands of children who depend on these meals are at risk of going hungry. Can Cook, working in conjunction with the Liverpool Echo, did an amazing job of tackling this problem by raising £20,000 and distributing 12,115 fresh meals to children all over the region this summer.
I was glad to see that John fully supports the work of both Can Cook and the Share Your Lunch Campaign. Hopefully we can see the model they use to provide healthy meals implemented across the UK.
The Share Your Lunch Scheme really is a lifeline for families in crisis and many others in my constituency, but parents should not be forced to rely on the work of charities to feed their kids. Something needs to change. We need a Labour Government to stop punishing people on social security and we need to ensure that those in work get paid properly so that they can afford to feed their families and live on their wages.