Nobody should have to go hungry. It’s one of the most basic human needs that, in 21st century Britain, should be met. At least if not by our wages, then by the government and our welfare system. Unfortunately, that is not the case for many people in Teesside.

Despite the work of so many hard-working individuals, grassroots organisations, charities and food banks across Teesside, areas like Middlesbrough are still affected by child poverty.[1] The International Covenant of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights is an internationally recognised treaty which binds the UK to commitment and recognition of the right to an adequate standard of living and the right to food. However, the growth in food bank reliance in recent years caused by socio-economic changes and the changeover from legacy benefits highlights the lack of protection for the right to food.[2]

Teesside’s industrial prosperity abruptly ended in 2009 when over 1700 jobs were lost with partial mothballing of Europe’s second largest blast furnace.[3] The area was hard hit by devastation after the closing of SSI in 2015 resulting in 3000 job losses.[4] This compounded impact of the recession, inflation, the loss of jobs and reforms to the benefit system has resulted in Teesside experiencing high unemployment rates and destitution.[5]

Teesside has been particularly affected by welfare reform. In 2017, the Community Foundation named the localities within Teesside as some of the most poorest areas in England.

“Middlesbrough was considered the most deprived local authority area in the country in 2015… Hartlepool was also in the 10% most deprived, whereas Redcar & Cleveland, Stockton-on-Tees and Darlington are in the top 20%.”[6] ‘Community Foundation, ‘Tees Valley’s Vital Issues,’ 2017.

 The demand for emergency food packages has doubled across Teesside in the three year period between 2015-2018[7] and the effect of the pandemic has only made the situation worse.[8] 

Shereen Brogan, a human rights paralegal and winner of Miss England North East virtual competition 2021. Image: Tandy Balunywa.

The Human Rights Act 1998 protects the right to life (Article 2), the right against inhumane or degrading treatment (Article 3) and the right to a private or family life (article 8), however economic and social rights such as the right to food have not been legally incorporated into the UK’s domestic human rights legislation despite the fact that these rights are indivisible and interdependent.[9]

It is of further concern that our government has also failed to recognise the inextricable link between poverty, deprivation and the multidimensional condition whereby resources and choices of the state are affecting a person’s adequate standard of living[10] as it seems austerity and cuts to social security have increased food insecurity.[11]

As the government has failed to implement sufficient policies and legislation, charity organisations and foodbanks have been left with the burden to protect the right to food and aid the people of Teesside. This means that food poverty and hunger has been depoliticised through the actions of the charitable sector and make the government believe that hunger is “being solved” and instead of tackling their international obligations to protect the right to food, the government lets these voluntary organisations absorb their duties.[12]

Given the destitution already faced in Teesside, and the pressures that our local charity sectors face, we must ensure that the most vulnerable to food poverty in our society, (especially children and those with disabilities) are protected in the economic aftermath of the pandemic and in the years to come by calling on the government to take more responsibility and action.

If you want to help, please don’t be discouraged from donating to one of the local foodbanks below or you can follow this link [DONATE HERE] but make sure you also raise these issues with your local MP or Councillor too, it’s important that our charities don’t become over-burdened with the responsibilities that our government should be tackling first-hand.

Food Bank List (A big thank you to our local food banks and charities):

Grove Hill Methodist Church: Tuesday 13:00-15:00

Coulby Newham Baptist Church: Wednesday 13:00-15:00
Middlesbrough Community Church: Thursday 11:30-13:30

Holy Trinity North Ormesby: Friday 13:00-15:00

Billingham Food bank: Tuesday and Thursday 11:00-14:00

Hebron Church Stockton: Wednesday and Friday 10:00-13:00

Stockton Hope: Wednesday 11:00-14:00

St Michaels & All Angels Church, Norton: Monday and Friday 12:30-14:30

Mersey Road, Redcar: Monday 11:00-12:30

South Bank: Wednesday 10:30-12:30

Park Avenue: Wednesday 11:00-12:30

All Saints Church: Friday 11:00-13:30

St George’s Church Normanby: Friday 10:00-12:00

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of The Tees Online, including its contributing writers, editors or any other individuals connected with The Tees Online.  


[1] Child Poverty Increases in England Across the North and Midlands, Patrick Butler, The Guardian, 14 October 2020 [https://www.theguardian.com/society/2020/oct/14/child-poverty-increases-in-england-across-the-north-and-midlands] last accessed 2 June 2021. See Also North East Child poverty Commission: Facts and Figures [https://nechildpoverty.org.uk/facts/] last accessed 3 June 2021

[2] The Trussell Trust, ‘The Next Stage Of Universal Credit: Moving Onto The New Benefit System And Foodbank Use’ (The Trussell Trust) 10-12

[3] James Lynn, ‘BBC News – Corus Job Cuts ‘Horrendous’ For Teesside’ (News.bbc.co.uk, 2019) [http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/england/tees/8395120.stm] accessed 17 May 2019

[4] Josh Halliday, ‘Different Worlds, 300 Metres Apart: How Two Areas Sum Up Middlesbrough’s Fate’ (The Guardian, 2019)

[https://www.theguardian.com/cities/2017/apr/26/different-world-middlesbrough-tees-valley-mayor-election]

accessed 24 May 2019.

[5] Christina Beatty and Steve Fothergill, ‘Welfare Reform In The United Kingdom 2010-16: Expectations, Outcomes, And Local Impacts’ (2017) 52 Social Policy & Administration 950-968 See also Robert Macdonald, Tracy Shildrick and Andy Furlong, ‘In Search Of ‘Intergenerational Cultures of Worklessness’: Hunting the Yeti and Shooting Zombies’ (2013) 34 Critical Social Policy.199–220. 

[6] Community Foundation, ‘Tees Valley’s Vital Issues’ 2017 5-9 [https://www.communityfoundation.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2017/10/Vital-Issues-Tees-Valley-including-Darlington-2017-FINAL.pdf] Accessed 4 June 2021

[7] Tees Food Bank Reveals Demand Has More Than Doubled in Just Three Years – Middlesbrough & Teesside Philanthropic Foundation’ (Middlesbrough & Teesside Philanthropic Foundation, 2018) <https://www.teessidecharity.org.uk/2018/12/tees-food-bank-reveals-demand-doubled-just-three-years/> accessed 14 September 2019.

[8]No New Food Bank For Middlesbrough Despite Surging Demand During Covid Pandemic, Alex Metcalfe, Teesside Live, 14 July 2020 [https://www.gazettelive.co.uk/news/teesside-news/no-new-food-bank-middlesbrough-18597649] Last accessed 28 May 2021

[9]  Hannah Lambie-Mumford and others, ‘Household Food Security In The UK: A Review Of Food Aid’ (Defra 2014) 67-72; Asbjørn Eide, ‘Human Rights Requirements To Social And Economic Development’ (1996) 21 Food Policy 23; Alan Walker, Adrian Sinfield and Carol Walker, Fighting Poverty, Inequality And Injustice: A Manifesto Inspired By Peter Townsend (Bristol University Press 2011) ch 12.

[10] UN Committee on Economic Social and Cultural Rights ‘statement on poverty and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Right, UN Doc E.C12/2001/10 (10 May 2001) 2-3

[11] Jenny Peachey, Nicola Smith and Neera Sharma, ‘Families in Need Of Food Parcels – The Food Poverty Crisis Unwrapped’ (Barnardo’s Strategy Unit 2013) 15-22.

[12] Graham Riches, ‘Thinking and Acting Outside the Charitable Food Box: Hunger And The Right To Food In Rich Societies’ (2011) 21 Development in Practice 767-768 See also Elizabeth Dowler and Hannah Lambie-Mumford, ‘Introduction: Hunger, Food and Social Policy In Austerity’ (2015) 14 Social Policy and Society 412-414