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Page last updated at 12:07 GMT, Friday, 29 January 2010

Food banks grow after recession

Ian Paul
Ian Paul
Editor, Politics Show South

Food banks are being used by more and more people facing a financial crisis

The economy may be technically picking up, even if not by very much, but people are still feeling the effects of the recession.

Many have been so badly hit that they have to make the most basic choice between food and heating.

Which is where the Foodbank Network comes in. It started in Salisbury, and has now spread across the South.

Their aim is to provide people in need with three days-worth of nutritionally balanced food.

Growing need

The Salisbury Foodbank is run by the Trussell Trust. They reckon that this year they will dish out emergency food to over 3,000 people.

Multiply that by the number of Foodbanks opening up or already running across the country - fifty-plus so far - and you can see that behind any headlines about economic recovery there are many individual stories of struggle and hardship.

Holly Billen is a 28-year-old mum to be. She already has an eight-year-old son, and for her life is a strain just to keep going.

"There are no luxuries at all. I make a choice daily between fuel, food, heating or paying a bill. There is no leeway."

During the recent cold snap, that daily choice led to her burning some old kitchen furniture in order to keep warm, rather than run up extra heating bills.

An extreme situation perhaps, but there have been plenty of stories this winter of people in a similar position, having to decide between eating or heating.

Recovery for all?

A recovery in growth of a fraction of one per cent will probably not filter down to Holly or the other recipients of the Foodbank services any time soon.

The question for the politicians has to be whether in the rush to curb bankers bonuses or stimulate economic growth, the struggles of Holly and the tens of thousands like her to make ends meet are being a little overlooked.

Holly has no doubt that the politicians do not really "get it".

"I'm not asking to be rich. I'd just like more money to live on."

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