The Trussell Trust has defended itself against accusations it has been "used" by politicians, after several Conservative MPs were pictured supporting their local food banks.
MPs including Dominic Raab, formerly the minister in charge of negotiating Britain’s exit from the European Union, have recently used social media to promote visits to food banks in their constituencies.
Thank you to Tesco in Molesey and the Trussell Trust for partnering to encourage customers to generously provide food collections for families in our community, who are struggling at this time of year. pic.twitter.com/QkuCgQ8qAl— Dominic Raab (@DominicRaab) November 30, 2018
This provoked anger online from people who argued that the large increase in demand for food banks was a direct result of government policy supported by Conservative MPs, and especially the controversial roll-out of universal credit.
One Twitter user said the trust had enabled the MPs to use food banks for PR opportunities and described the pictures as "another kick in the teeth" for families that lived in food poverty.
Some said that they would never donate to the charity again.
I was very disappointed that the Trussell Trust enabled Tory MP's to use citizen's need to use foodbanks as a photo and PR oppertunity this weekend. It also looked like an ad for Tesco's. For those on the recieving end of austerity this felt like another kick in the teeth.— Dormouse (@Dormouse1601) December 3, 2018
Campaigners also pointed out that many of the MPs’ tweets were identical, suggesting that Conservative Party organisers had coordinated the promotional push.
The tweets by MPs varied in age, with several being published over the past weekend, but some being as much as three years old.
In a blog responding to the criticism, published yesterday, the trust defended its decision to engage with politicians from all parties.
Garry Lemon, the charity’s director of policy, external affairs and research, wrote: "Charity law means we can’t be party political – but even if it didn’t, we think it’s important to talk to politicians of all parties.
"Poverty is an issue that needs action on all sides. If we want to create long-lasting change so people are protected from needing a food bank in the future, we need everyone – irrespective of political opinion – to get behind the change that’s needed."
Lemon added: "Politicians’ support for food banks shouldn’t begin and end with a donation – they need to do more.
"I would ask all politicians to look at the evidence food banks in our network have gathered and to act upon it, with the first step they take being an end to the five-week wait for universal credit."
The Trussell Trust runs a network of more than 420 food banks across the country to provide at least three days of emergency food and support to families in crisis.
It has long called for welfare reform as a way to address poverty.
Earlier this year, the trust found there was a "demonstrable increase" in demand for local food banks in areas where universal credit had been rolled-out twelve months before.