The Trussell Trust tries hard to stay out of politics

The Trussell Trust says its food banks are feeding three times as many people as last year. Photo: ITV News

The Trussell Trust tries hard to stay out of politics. But news that it's feeding three times more people now than it did this time last year has thrust it once again onto the political centre stage.

But there's no politics where I am on the Trussell Trust frontline in a busy food bank in Mold, rural North Wales. Here dozens of volunteers are feeding those who've fallen through the safety nets which welfare, friends and family usually provide.

Here volunteers don't want to point fingers of blame or talk about why their numbers have tripled. The area manager says the problem of food poverty is "complex", adding that the recession, current government policy and welfare changes are all combining to drive people to food banks to get urgent help.

Other volunteers talk of the "shock and shame" of the level of need they see but tell me that rather than blame others for the mess, it's better to step in and try to do something to sort it.

Here they've all done a great deal to help. This year alone Mold's food bank has provided stop gap food for 6,000 people, up from 2,000 last year. Like the national figures, the need has risen threefold.

Almost a million adults and children received supplies from food banks in the past year, a new report has found. Credit: Reuters

During my day-long visit I watched six very different families come and go.Among them were two families who had used the food bank previously as a "stop gap" to help them out during hard times. They came in especially to tell me what a difference that temporary help had made to them.

But another three families I met were clearly in the midst of crisis; one so severe they had recently been sleeping on the streets, whilst another young unemployed father told me he needed to hurry home with the food because his two young kids were waiting for breakfast.

The third seemingly anxious mother was in her early twenties. She told she was too ashamed of needing help to be filmed. She had two young sons with her and another baby due soon.

The final visitor I watched was also unwilling to be filmed and although the staff showed him great kindness it was apparent his problems were manifold and included addiction. "Food for him is a better option than money" one seasoned volunteer observed without a hint of unkindness or sarcasm. Perhaps I'm less kind, because I was left wondering if he might sell the food he was after to feed his addiction.

Those using food banks have increased 163% on the previous year. Credit: Reuters

I left having seen a typical day in a food bank where some of our most vulnerable citizens get help in an environment drained of politics and judgement.Food banks are places where people can get a cup of tea and sympathy and spend time with someone who cares. They are places people can admit they can't cook, budget, or cope very well, a fact which has as much to do with why many people end up hungry and vulnerable as any lack of money on its own.

For the Left the rising numbers visiting food banks are proof that the cost of living crisis is leaving the poorest hungry. "The shocking truth of life under David Cameron" Labour called it today. For the Right they are proof of the Big Society stepping in, as their radical policies try to end generational dependency on the state, something which is both unsustainable and unaffordable, they argue.

But for the volunteers at the Trussell Trust, the rising numbers in need are simply their everyday reality, and just another reason to go to work.

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