Newly elected Tory MP accused of ‘cashing in’ on food banks

Miriam Cates has come under fire for running a service that charges food banks to list the items they need.

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

Miriam Cates – who won the seat of Penistone and Stocksbridge in South Yorkshire in the 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 that 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.

The app initially charged food banks a £360 subscription fee for two years, allowing them to post ‘shopping lists’ for people interested in donating.

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,” Johnson said.

“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.”

As reported by 24housing on the run up to the election, citing its latest stats, the Trussell Trust revealed that more people than ever before are being forced to food banks – with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months.

Recently released Shelter figures also revealed that 135,000 children in Britain are homeless and living in temporary accommodation – the highest figure in 12 years.

Cates has since said that claims that she had been trying to make a profit off foodbanks are “incorrect”.

“We developed the app for free, using our time, resources, staff, and money and did not charge S6 Foodbank for its use.

“The commercial cost of an app like this would be tens of thousands of pounds – we developed it for free,” she said.

“As a small business we did not have the resources to continue to develop the app for free, so we had to charge Foodbanks a small set-up charge to allow us to continue to support and update the app.

“However, this fee works out at less than the monthly cost of a Just Giving subscription – something that the Foodbanks get for free using our app” she added.

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