LAST week I was pleased to welcome the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry on Food Poverty to South Shields.
We held a discussion covering issues including rising food prices, low pay, cuts to essential benefits, and ways that volunteers and charities can support those who are struggling to feed themselves and their families.
There was a wide range of people in attendance, including MPs and peers from across Parliament, faith groups, bishops, local councillors, officers from the council, local housing associations and charities and representatives from the health service, police force, people who run food banks in Shields and families who use its services.
We had a really productive discussion about what we can do to support disadvantaged people in our area, and what the Government needs to do to make sure people can afford to eat decent and healthy meals each day.
The root cause of food poverty is that people simply don’t have enough to live on, and the safety net of the welfare state is working against people by issuing sanctions and delaying benefits.
That is why this week I joined with my Labour colleagues to back a Bill to raise the national minimum wage to make work pay, and a Bill to put an end to exploitative zero-hours contracts.
I also think the Government should do more to deal with people’s living costs, like rent and heating, which have risen massively under the coalition.
That’s why I back Ed Miliband’s plans to freeze energy bills, limit rent rises and ban rip-off agents’ letting fees.
Judging by last week’s inquiry session, there are a lot of people who feel the same way.
I was delighted at the turnout, and I am pleased that our community was able to argue so powerfully for stronger action on food poverty.
Our inquiry will be publishing its recommendations later this year, and pushing the Government towards providing relief to those struggling with food poverty.