People rely on food banks because they “cannot cook properly”, Tory MP claims

Elliot Chappell

Conservative MP Lee Anderson has been widely criticised after he claimed that the reason that food bank use has risen so much over the past decade is that “we’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly”.

In his contribution to the Queen’s Speech debate in parliament today, the Tory MP for Ashfield invited colleagues to visit a food bank in his constituency where recipients of food have to register for budgeting and cooking courses.

“We show them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget. We can make a meal for about 30p a day, and this is cooking from scratch,” he said.

“I’ll invite you personally to come to Ashfield, look at our food bank, how it works. And I’ll think you’ll see first hand that there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country. We’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly. They can’t cook a meal from scratch. They cannot budget.”

More than 19 million meals were provided to households in need by food banks across the country in the year to March. Trussel Trust, the biggest network of food banks in the UK, handed out 2,173,158 emergency parcels in the 12 months to April.

832,109 of those packages, which contained enough ingredients for nearly 7.5 million meals, went to children. Each parcel handed out by the network’s food banks provides enough food for three meals per day for three days.

Labour’s Karen Buck described the comments made by her Conservative colleague this afternoon as “beyond belief” and argued that “out of touch doesn’t even cover it”, adding: “We now hear daily stories of families going without food and others unable to turn their ovens on in fear of rising energy bills.

“The idea that the problem is cooking skills and not 12 years of government decisions that are pushing people into extreme poverty is beyond belief.”

Rising living costs are forcing more people to turn to food banks. Ministers were warned before they cut the Universal Credit payment by £20 a week that the move would plunge 840,000 more people into poverty, including 300,000 children.

Frances O’Grady branded Anderson’s comments “insulting”, pointing out that many people who use food banks are in work and still cannot afford to buy food, and said that the Conservative MP showed today “how out of touch Conservative MPs and ministers are with the cost of living emergency”.

“While the government sits on its hands, families across Britain are being pushed to the brink by soaring bills and prices,” the TUC general secretary said.

“Rather than being condescending, Conservative politicians should be putting pressure on the Chancellor to call an emergency budget.”

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