Trust reports another rise in foodbank applications

24 April 2015

TRUSSELL TRUST

In want: top: a graph showing the number of requests for help made to the Trussell Trust in 2014-15

In want: top: a graph showing the number of requests for help made to the Trussell Trust in 2014-15

MORE than one million food parcels were given out by Trussell Trust foodbanks in the past 12 months, an increase of 19 per cent on the previous year.

The latest figures from the charity reveal that three days' worth of food supplies was given out 1,084,604 times in the 2014/15 financial year. In the previous financial year, 913,000 food parcels had been distributed.

Problems with benefits remain the single biggest factor in driving people to ask for emergency food supplies from a foodbank. The Trust said on Wednesday that referrals caused by "low income" had also increased slightly from 2013/14.

Adrian Curtis, the foodbank director at the charity, said: "The Trussell Trust's latest figures highlight how vital it is that we all work to prevent and relieve hunger in the UK. It's crucial that we listen to the experiences of people using foodbanks to truly understand the nature of the problems they face."

The number of foodbanks within the Trust's network grew slightly in the past year to 445. Six years ago, there were only 29 across the UK in the network, distributing food aid on 26,000 occasions. The expansion has slowed: in 2013/14, the numbers of parcels distributed expanded from 347,000 to 913,000 in a single year.

The Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton, said that the fact that anyone had to use a foodbank was a "disgrace"; so last year's rise was a tragedy.

Bishop Thornton co-chaired a parliamentary inquiry into food poverty last year. It found that about a third of referrals to foodbanks were prompted by delays and errors in benefits ( News, 12 December 2014). It recommended urgent reform of the welfare system, and a rise in the minimum wage.

Speaking on Wednesday about the fate of the recommendations, Bishop Thornton said: "There's frustration when things don't go how I would like them to go, but there is nothing much that can be done at the moment, because of the election.

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"But I'm always an optimist, and am confident that the work we began with the Feeding Britain inquiry will keep moving forward."

One of the main barriers to progress was that many people preferred to ignore the hundreds of thousands going unfed, Bishop Thornton said.

But he was spurred on by the example of Christians. "It's quite extraordinary, the amount of time, effort, and energy put in by faithful people across the country. I was constantly amazed and encouraged by what I saw."

Two other members of the inquiry, Labour's Frank Field and the Conservative John Glen, said that, if their report's 77 recommendations were adopted, hunger would be "abolished" in the UK. Only a third have been taken up so far.

"There are simply too many people in this country who are struggling to afford food for themselves and their families," they said. "Failure to embrace our proposals would, we fear, result in the queues for foodbanks growing longer in the next Parliament, regardless of who wins the election."

The Trussell Trust's research suggests that half of foodbank-users needed one food parcel a year, whereas 15 per cent needed emergency food aid three times. On average, users received two food parcels a year, which implies that approximately 500,000 people were assisted by the Trust's foodbanks in 2014/15.

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