Food bank demand for items to eat cold ‘mind blowing’, says Jack Monroe

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Jack Monroe, the writer and campaigner, has described as “mind blowing” the rising number of food bank users who are asking for items that can be eaten cold because they can’t afford to heat them.

Monroe, a former food bank user who campaigns against poverty and publishes recipes that can be made on a tight budget, said cold foods were becoming a lifeline for families who could not afford to turn on the hob.

“People are increasingly asking for products that can be eaten cold,” Monroe told the BBC Radio 4 Today programme. “Their gas or electric has been cut off, or their energy bills are so high, or they’re on prepaid metres so they’re what’s known as ‘self-disconnected’, which is an industry term for: ‘I don’t have the money to put my heating on.’

“It’s mind blowing in the scale of it. I don’t have words actually.”

Monroe said food banks were increasingly in need of canned items as a result. “Baked beans, snacks, tin meats, things like spam, tin puddings, tend to be things that get missed out in people’s donation list because they’re not particularly fashionable anymore. But they are really useful ways to get something sort of mildly nutritious inside in a hurry,” Monroe explained.

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Her comments came as the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, prepared to announce a package of support to help people with rising household bills, including through a windfall tax on energy firms.

Speaking on Thursday morning, the chief executive of Citizens Advice, Dame Clare Moriarty said food bank vouchers had become a fact of life for many households in recent months. She said more people were coming to the consumer charity despite being in work, and many were asking for food vouchers despite never needing them before.

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“We’ve got people in this country who cannot put food on the table. They cannot keep the lights on and the heating on,” Moriarty told the Today programme.

“I was in Hammersmith and Fulham yesterday talking to our advisers, and they are desperately worried about people coming to them who have made sure that they’re claiming all the income they’re entitled to, they are living as cheaply as they can, and they still need food bank vouchers.”

“Food bank vouchers are becoming a fact of life … It’s not sustainable,” Moriarty said.

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