The Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) held a stall in Wigan town centre on Saturday as part of their Right to Food campaign. They handed out free tea, coffee, cake, biscuits and soup to passers-by. The campaign aims to put pressure on the government to enshrine the right to food into law.
“This means that Universal Credit would have to be at a level where people could afford to eat as well as pay rent and also pay for energy”. Said Ian Hodson President of BFAWU.
The stall was attended by Greater Manchester Law Centre who offered free legal advice and support and promoted their Zero Hours Justice Campaign, which informs people about their rights on zero-hours contracts.
“The Right to Food Campaign is about that people are in insecure employment. Through zero hours, through minimum wage contracts, through low pay. All of these issues play into the fact that people end up in food poverty.” Said Ian Hodson.
BFAWU aim to collect a million signatures in support of their campaign, which has gained widespread support from food poverty activists and socialist Labour MPs like Ian Byrne, who has raised the campaign in Parliament on several occasion. Their petition can be found HERE.
A survey conducted by BFAWU found that of those working in the food sector, 40% were relying on the goodwill and charity of family and friends for food. 35% of them admitted that they did without food so others in their household could eat. And 7.5% used food banks.
As part of their campaign BFAWU have commissioned a new study which they say will provide the data they need to enable them to negotiate better terms and conditions with the employers that they organise within, and also bring about changes in the legislation.
Although the Right To Food Campaign is not a foodbank, they work with food pantries where people can get food, which costs between £2.50 and £3.00 depending on where you are in the country. You can get 10 items in the governed food bank without having to demonstrate you are living in poverty.
“The response from the public has been great. People have stopped to talk to us. Wondering why we are here. Why is a trade union in the middle Wigan town centre?” Said Ian Hodson.
He went on: “I don’t think the current government is interested in the lives of people in the communities. I don’t believe that people are its first concern. They are only interested in the powerful and the wealthy. They believe that that’s the only people that they have to keep on side. And you can see that in how they have just allowed prices for energy to rise. The way that they have forced people into food banks and choose between eating or heating. Those are political choices. They could end food poverty today if they wanted to. But they choose not to.”