Chesterfield campaigner slams Tory MP who claims food bank users ‘cannot cook or budget’

A campaigner from Chesterfield has criticised a Tory MP who said that people who use food banks need to learn to cook and budget properly.

Monday, 16th May 2022, 3:21 pm

Lee Anderson, the Conservative MP for Ashfield, sparked controversy when he told the House of Commons that there was little need for food banks in the UK.

During the Queen’s Speech debate, he told opposition MPs about a food bank he volunteers at in his Nottinghamshire constituency, which offers courses in cooking and budgeting.

He said: “When people come now for a food parcel, they have to register for a budgeting course and a cooking course.

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Volunteer Sophie Dolling sorts items at Chesterfield Foodbank's base at St Michael's Church Hall in Brimington.

“And what we do at the food bank, we teach them how to cook cheap and nutritious meals on a budget.

"We can make a meal for about 30p a day, which is cooking from scratch.”

He added: “I think you’ll see first-hand that there’s not this massive use for food banks in this country. You’ve got generation after generation who cannot cook properly. They can’t cook a meal from scratch. They cannot budget.”

Colin Hampton, from the Chesterfield-based Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, said that Anderson had ‘exposed’ how the Conservatives view those who are facing financial difficulties.

Colin Hampton, from the Chesterfield-based Derbyshire Unemployed Workers’ Centre, said that Anderson had ‘exposed’ how the Conservatives view those who are facing financial difficulties.

“In his crude way, Lee Anderson has done us all a favour by exposing the Tory Policy for working class people struggling to make ends meet – train to be poor.

"Very little help will be coming your way, so learn to live on a meagre budget,” he added.

“The growth in food banks over the last decade shows that the social security safety net has been badly eroded.”

Colin added that everyone in the UK should be able to afford to eat – with everyone in society being impacted when people face such issues.

Lee Anderson MP represents the constituency of Ashfield, Nottinghamshire.

“Everyone should be able to live in dignity in our rich country. It does our society no good at all for children and young people especially to go without adequate nutrition – we all pay for it in the end.

“We have to let him and his like know how we feel about increasing inequality.”

Patrick Evans, from the Chesterfield Foodbank, said: “ Mr Anderson is clearly wrong in saying there is no great need for foodbanks in the UK. Since 2010 we have seen a huge rise in demand all over the UK. This has been evident in the need to expand the provision in Chesterfield and the surrounding areas since we first opened a foodbank centre in 2013.

“Everyone should have enough money in their pockets to afford the essentials, but people at food banks are telling us they’re skipping meals to feed their children and requesting food products that don’t need heating because they can’t afford to switch on the oven.

“In the last two weeks, Chesterfield Foodbank has seen a 17% increase in use compared to the first two weeks in March. This is on the back of a 45% increase over the last two years. People are really struggling and cookery courses will not solve the problem, however valuable the courses themselves may be.”

Patrick added: “Cooking from scratch won’t help families keep the lights on or put food on the table, if they don’t have enough money in their pockets. Trussell Trust research shows that people at food banks had on average just £57 a week to live on after housing costs, and no amount of budget management or cooking classes will make this stretch to cover council tax, energy bills, food and all the other essentials we all need to get by.

“Historically we have provided parcels to people without cooking facilities. Or perhaps only a kettle. However, this is the first time where we are encountering large numbers who cannot afford to use the facilities that they do have. It is a worrying new development.

“That’s why the Trussell Trust are urgently calling on the government to bring benefits in line with the true cost of living and – in the longer term – to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure everyone can afford the essentials we all need to survive.”

Anderson, who won his seat in the 2019 general election, was invited to explain his comments on Times Radio, after provoking an intense reaction from the opposite side of the Commons.

He said: “The point I was making was that there are a lot of people out there that with the right help, the right support and the right education, they would be able to fend for themselves.”

Anderson stated that he was being criticised for “talking common sense”.

He said: “It’s as simple as that. I’m getting a lot of emails of support. The left will obviously jump on this [and] the mainstream media.”

The MP also dismissed claims he was “being a nasty Tory” and added: “I’m glad that it’s caused all this fuss. Because it brings that debate out.”