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Aberdeen MP invites Tory minister to see ‘reality’ of hardship at city food bank

Kemi Badenoch was invited by Kirsty Blackman to visit an Aberdeen food bank.
Kemi Badenoch was invited by Kirsty Blackman to visit an Aberdeen food bank.

Aberdeen MP Kirsty Blackman has told a government minister to come to the city and see how food bank shelves are “almost stripped bare” to meet demand from struggling families.

The SNP politician wrote to Conservative Kemi Badenoch following an angry exchange over the cost of living crisis at Westminster last week.

In her letter, Ms Blackman claimed food banks in her Aberdeen North constituency are “almost being stripped bare as organisations are struggling to keep up with increasing demand”.

Evan Adamson, from the city’s Instant Neighbour food bank, told us he’s seeing on average two to three new clients a day.

This compares with around 10 new clients a month before the cost of living crisis hit.

He told the Press and Journal he does not see how any food bank in the city will be able to “maintain the level they are at now”.

‘Constituents cannot afford to eat’

Ms Blackman challenged Ms Badenoch on her government’s record, stating her constituents “cannot afford to eat”.

In a remark she later withdrew, Ms Badenoch said the SNP politician was being “disingenuous with the way she is presenting the argument”.

The minister added: “She knows that I do not know the specific circumstances of her constituents.”

She threw the question back at Ms Blackman asking what the Scottish Government is doing to help her constituents.

Kirsty Blackman, MP for Aberdeen North.

Ms Blackman later said: “Kemi Badenoch’s comments demonstrate in no uncertain terms how out of touch she and her party are with the cost of living crisis.

“The blame for this nightmare lies squarely with the UK government who have failed to lift a finger to support families facing the brunt of the crisis.

“Instead of making insulting comments like ‘work more hours’ or ‘learn to budget better’, the Tories should deliver a comprehensive package of support which will put money into the pockets of families – not take it away.

“That is why I am offering Ms Badenoch the opportunity to come to my constituency and see first-hand the impact her government’s cruel austerity measures have had.”

Demand has ‘skyrocketed’

Mr Adamson, community connector at the Instant Neighbour food bank, said demand for food banks has “skyrocketed”.

This is coupled with food banks seeing less food donations coming in through the door.

He said: “I’m trying to bring back the phrase ’emergency food bank’.

“For the longest time we’ve been propping up the welfare system as an acceptable addition to your benefits.

Evan Adamson works as a community connector with Instant Neighbour.

“What then happens is it’s a tax on the kind. We have to rely on the goodness of companies and individuals.

“When October comes and the price cap goes up again…Then I think that’s going to be really scary.

“I had someone in this morning saying she just can’t afford to put her heating up, she’s got two young kids.

“She puts enough credit in her meter to make sure she stays out the emergency credit.

“That’s what she’s doing on a weekly basis because she can’t afford to put her heating on.”

‘Incredible decrease in food’

The Trussell Trust’s Aberdeen North food bank has also seen a significant increase in the number of people asking for food parcels.

This includes more employed people, families and students.

Between January to date, the charity has given out 714 food parcels to feed 1,558 people.

This compares to 2021 when the food bank handed out 395 parcels which fed 711 people and 2020 where 559 parcels fed 1,146 people.

Matthew McArthur, co-ordinator at Aberdeen North food bank.

Matthew McArthur, co-ordinator at the food bank, said: “We’re seeing quite a few students who are finding that their student support money isn’t quite enough for them and once they’ve paid off their rent, they are not seeing much left.

“We’ve never really had a large group of students relying on us but since January we’ve seen a bit more.”

The food bank has also seen an “incredible decrease” in the food donations coming in, as is the case with other food banks across the city.

So far this year the charity has taken in 4,855.9kg of food and given out 8,034.37kg.

This compares to 2021 when 7,929.77kg of food donations coming in and 8,601.67kg going out.

Mr McArthur said: “The amount of food we’ve taken in this year compared to what we’ve put out is about like a 1:2 ratio so we’ve taken in about half of what we’ve given out this year.”

The UK Government was approached for comment.

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