Ten years ago Elizabeth Blanche was a single mum-of-four who admits that she would then have needed a food bank. Today she is standing outside the Conservative Party conference in Newtown highlighting the rise in the need of foodbanks. Not for her, because she says that all over Wales there are parents working second or third jobs to afford to feed their children.
Her sign directs delegates in one direction to Theatr Hafren, where the conference is being held, and in the other direction to “food bank”. She said: “Whereas before you used to get a few people on benefits going now it’s people who are working, working two or three jobs and still having to use foodbanks.
She was protesting a day after Boris Johnson spoke to the conference announcing plans for a second new nuclear power station in Wales and promising to “go and look at” demands for a St David’s Day bank holiday for Wales, despite admitting he hadn’t heard of the issue before.
Elizabeth has links to Newtown’s food surplus store, next door to the foodbank, which was set up to help reduce food waste. Rising demand means that brief has had to change and now it’s helping people who are struggling to afford food.
“My friend set it up and went round to all the supermarkets, all the food that was being thrown out at the end of the day rather than going in landfill she collects and processes. You go there for free. You don’t need a recommendation or referrals which is the big difference and people go there because of the lack of stigma. You don’t have to be diagnosed with poverty which is what happens with the other one.
“I was a single mother with four children. If I was in the position now I was in 10 years ago, I would be accessing a foodbank,” said Ms Blanche.
“It’s hard and I’m incredibly lucky that things are a little bit easier, but I’m here today for every mother and father who can’t be here because they’re working their second or third job.”
Speaking during his visit on Friday Boris Johnson said: “Just as we got the most difficult challenges of Covid right, we got the big calls right, we will get this country through the big challenges now of the post-Covid aftershocks, the pressures caused in particular by the rise in the cost of living.
The Prime Minister said the UK Government would support the public through the cost-of-living crisis in much the same way it did through the coronavirus pandemic.
“Everyone can see what’s happening, the cost of fuel pumps, the price of food, the cost of energy, we all know how tough it is and how tough it can be.”
He added: “Of course we’re going to get through this and the markets will eventually adjust and new supply will come on and prices will come down again.
“And in the months ahead, we are going to have to do what we did before, we’re going to use our fiscal firepower that we built up to help. We are going to put our arms around the British people again as we did during Covid.”