When I was asked to help out at a Liverpool food bank by the Trussell Trust and Len McCluskey, I leapt at the chance. But what I saw there really stopped me in my tracks.
The volunteers were working flat out packing food boxes for families who without their help would have nothing to wake up to on Christmas morning.
Then the manager Paul told me this was just one of a number of food banks in and around Liverpool and all of them would be rushed off their feet over Christmas.
In all there are 400 Trussell Trust food banks trying to feed 20,000 kids this Christmas. That’s on top of the 500,000 people they’ve fed since April, which is like feeding the whole of Wembley stadium five and a half times over.
Now Len and I are working class Liverpudlians – born and bred. We know what Scousers are like. Ours is a city full of proud people.
It’s obvious to us that the moment a family was forced to go to a food bank for help would’ve been one of the hardest of their lives – no matter how friendly the volunteers.
So it makes me furious when a prat like Tory Government minister Lord Freud says people are just going to take advantage of a free meal. Rubbish! These families are totally desperate.
And don’t even get me started on Esther McVey. That Wirral MP is simply a complete embarrassment to all of Merseyside.
Last week she was representing the Government in a debate on food banks, which was demanded by the 144,400 people who signed Jack Monroe’s petition – backed by the Mirror and Unite.
But Esther couldn’t even be bothered to stay the whole way through the debate. Just like her boss Iain Duncan Smith, she ran off, rather than face up to the damage that her Government is doing.
The truth is millions of families are facing a grim Christmas and 2014, because of frozen wages, rocketing bills and Government cuts. Pay packets simply can’t cover the cost of living.
But rather than do something about it, this lot in government are trying to blame ordinary people and turn us against each other.
Sadly, our afternoon at the food bank reminded Len and me of a time we’d hoped had been left behind.
We remembered being trade union organisers in the 1970s and 1980s, me on the building sites and Len as a dock worker. Back then ordinary families were facing desperate poverty.
But throughout that dark time one thing kept us going – the strength of our community.
Even if too often the government then didn’t give a toss about us, people pulled together to help each other out.
That’s why I’m so proud to be backing the Mirror, the Trussell Trust and Unite Christmas appeal this year.
It’s inspiring to see once again ordinary people, all around the country, putting their hands in their pockets to donate whatever they can manage.
As a trade unionist, I’m so glad that Unite is helping to lead this cause. After all, looking out for people in tough times is what we have always
It’s great that we are all coming together to make sure that families living in crisis can at least have some food on the table for Christmas Day.
I could not sit down to enjoy my Christmas dinner knowing that there were people who did not have one. Don’t forget – it’s not too late for you to help.
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