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Monday, 01 September 2014

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Figures reveal level of support for Cumbria food banks

CUMBRIA County Council is one of 140 authorities that have backed local food banks over the last two years, it has been revealed.

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helping out Warehouse manager Beverley Dent stocking shelves at the Barrow Food Bank. Cumbria County Council has given support to the food bank over the last two years JOE RILEY REF: 50033590B001

The county council supported the setting up of Barrow Food Bank in Abbey Road Baptist Church, but does not give the group regular funding.

Instead, the service relies on public donations and receives occasional grants from the council to carry out certain projects, including a drive to cut child poverty in the area.

Statistics show that one in three councils in England and Wales have funded or subsidised the emergency food service in some way over the last two years, with Cumbria one of 140 councils that have financially supported local food banks.

Ann Mills, project manager of the Barrow Food Bank, said the council funding stream was not continuous.

She said: “We haven’t really had a direct subsidy. When we first started, the county council gave us £1,000 to help us get going.

“At Christmas, we had funding from the county council of £5,000 to help child food poverty. It was for a specific programme with schools identifying children in low-income families who needed support.

“The money supported that project and it gave 250 food hampers to local schools. Apart from specific projects, we don’t get direct funding.”

Nationally, almost £3m of public money has been used by councils to help tackle food poverty, according to figures obtained by the BBC.

A third of all councils in England and Wales that replied to a Freedom of Information request by the Panorama programme said they had subsidised food banks.

Panorama asked all 375 councils if they were funding food banks. Of the 323 councils that responded, 140 said they were.

A spokesman for the county council said: “Cumbria County Council has offered financial support to a number of food banks across Cumbria to assist with the purchase of food as part of the council’s Ways to Welfare programme.”

Critics of food banks argue that the service is not a long-term solution.

However, opponents argue more money from public health budgets is needed to deal with the growing number of families going hungry.

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