The Matthew Tree Project (TMTP) provides free food aid to those in most need and has recently opened its first FoodStore in Stokes Croft, to provide a balanced diet of good, healthy food to those in crisis and who are, for whatever reason, at risk of going hungry. TMTP is a charity that works with the local church, the food and drink industry and community organisations to provide healthy, good quality food and other related support services to vulnerable people in need in Bristol.

One example of the work done by TMTP is by supporting children, who are receiving free school meals, with food during school holiday periods. Quite often families with children who qualify for free school meals are living below the poverty line and when school holiday times come there is no money for the increased demand on the food budget and the children go hungry. All food given out by TMTP is donated.

Donated food is received from local churches and the general public. TMTP have made an agreement with local food outlets who permit a team of TMTP volunteers to stand at the entrance and approach shoppers as they enter the store. The shopper is simply requested to purchase an additional item or two from a shopping list and place it in TMTP basket as they leave. The vast majority of people approached in this way are only to pleased to be able to help and on average when the charity does this type of food appeal collection around £1500–£2000 worth of food is received.

The work of TMTP directly affects those living in poverty and in particular those who are most vulnerable such as the old, the young, families on low income and those with no real income at all.

Our mission is “the relief of food hunger and the underlying causes of poverty in Bristol.” TMTP aims to maximise benefits to disadvantaged people, and communities and this places it at the centre of the most urgent challenge to face the UK over the next 25 years; the reversal of the increasing trend of the number of people living in poverty in the UK.

Recent research clearly indicates that poverty in the UK has not deepened but broadened, encompassing many more people. In 2010, 13.4 million people are living below the median [income] poverty line in the UK (22.3% of the population). In 1979 it was 7.6 million people (13.7% of the population). Our society is broken and the problem is getting worse.

Increasing food poverty is a good indicator of this problem and this has further ramifications for society as a whole. Poor diet and its associated effects such as obesity have become a major concern for the government. Malnutrition and its associated diseases cost the NHS between £2–4 billion per year, through increased rates of hospital admission and length of hospital stay.

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