More people than ever before turning to food banks

The Trussell Trust has revealed that more people than ever are being forced to turn to food banks, following the steepest increase in emergency food parcel handouts in five years.

The anti-poverty campaign group, which runs two-thirds of the UK’s food banks, said it distributed a record 823,145 food parcels between April and September, including 301,653 for children. This represents a 23 per cent increase on the same period last year, making it the steepest rise the charity has witnessed since its network of food banks was fully established.

The increase has largely been blamed on welfare problems over the last six months. The Trussell Trust named the top three reasons cited by people needing emergency food as insufficient benefit income, at 36 per cent, followed by delays in benefit payments at 18 per cent and changes to benefit at 16 per cent.

This follows recent research which showed that welfare changes, such as universal credit and the bedroom tax, were driving the increased use of food banks. The Trussell Trust’s State of Hunger report estimated that one in 50 UK households used a food bank in 2018-19 and at least three million food parcels were given out.

The Trussell Trust has called on politicians of all parties to pledge to protect people from hunger, demanding an end to the five-week wait for universal credit payments, a commitment to ensure benefit payments cover the basic costs of living, and investment in emergency support for people in crisis.

Emma Revie, the trust’s chief executive, said: “What’s really concerning us is the steepness of the increase – 23 per cent compared with the same period last year is such a step up. We’re really worried about what the coming winter is going to look like. Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

“We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five-week wait for universal credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis. It’s in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change.”

Margaret Greenwood, Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary, responded:  “It should be a source of shame for this government that food bank use has risen so sharply yet again. These figures show clearly how harsh, punitive Conservative policies like the five week wait in Universal Credit are pushing people to the point of destitution.

“When Universal Credit payments finally arrive they may not even cover the most basic living costs, leaving parents unable to feed their children. Labour will scrap Universal Credit, halve food bank usage within our first year in office and end it within three years. Nobody should ever be forced to turn to food banks to survive.”