Foodbank app run by newly elected Tory MP charges charities to use it

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Miriam Cates

Miriam Cates’s app attacked by Labour rival as ‘profiting’ from food poverty

A newly-elected Conservative MP has been criticized after it emerged she owns an app which charges foodbanks to include their shopping lists of needed items.

Miriam Cates, who won the seat of Penistone and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire in Thursday’s election, and her husband Dave are behind the app called Foodbank.

Launched in 2014, the app allows individual foodbanks to register which particular items of food they need, so people keen to donate can ensure they purchase things actually needed by their local facility.

However, any foodbank which wishes to sign up to the app must first pay a fee of £180, which the company says is to cover the cost of setting up the new charity within the app’s system.

Ms. Cates’s defeated Labour opponent in Penistone and Stocksbridge, Francyne Johnson, said she was very concerned by how the Foodbank app sought to profit from food poverty.

“This revelation is deeply worrying, especially when you consider how the use of food banks has increased massively due to Conservative party policies,” she told the Novara Media website.

“Food banks are charitable services often run by local churches and charities helping the most vulnerable in society, and any attempt to profit from them would be appalling.

“I have worked with families in Penistone and Stocksbridge who are struggling to scrape together the bus fare to even get to the food bank because of the severe hardship caused by the Tory government.”

Many of those working in the foodbank sector blame Conservative actions in government for the rise in food poverty.

Figures from the Trussell Trust, by far the largest network of food banks in Britain, show that a record 1.6m food parcels were given out in 2018.

Tory candidate suggests people using food banks need help managing their budgets

Its statistics show a fifth of all referrals to foodbanks were connected to delays in receiving benefits. The Trust has repeatedly criticized the five-week delay in first receiving benefits when people are moved onto the Universal Credit system in particular.

When the Foodbank app was launched in 2014 it said 40 local foodbanks had signed up to take part, but it is not clear how many are using it today.

The Foodbank app is not the only similar service available to local charities, and nor is it the only service which charges individual food banks.

Any foodbank which joins the Trussell Trust’s own network has to pay a joining fee of £1,500 and then £360 a year after that.

The Trust says this helps towards the costs of delivering their services to food banks, including £1.3m-worth of funding in 2018.

Ms Cates and the Conservative Party did not respond to requests for comment.

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