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Foodbank use doubles in five years, Trussell Trust reports

15 May 2024

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DEMAND for emergency food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network has almost doubled over the past five years, the charity reports, and a record number have been handed out over the past 12 months.

The charity’s latest figures, released on Wednesday, show that its foodbanks distributed 3.1 million food parcels between April 2023 and March 2024, of which 1.1 million were for children. About 65 per cent of the support went to families with children.

The demand has increased by 94 per cent since 2019, and by four per cent since last year. Despite the fall in inflation, cuts in government support meant that people on lowest incomes were worse off than in the previous year, the charity said. The planned closure in September of the Household Support Fund, which offered crisis support with the bills for heating, food, and other essentials, will have “devastating consequences”, it warned.

The chief executive of the Trussell Trust, Emma Revie, called on political leaders to set out policies in the run-up to the General Election to ensure that foodbank use became obsolete in the UK.

She said: “We must not let foodbanks become the new norm. As we approach the next UK General Election, we urgently need all political leaders to set out how they will build a future where no one needs a foodbank to survive. Voters want to see a change, and we need cross-government action at all levels to deliver it. We know what’s pushing people to foodbanks; so we know what needs to change.

“A supportive social-security system is the bedrock on which we end hunger for good. Building on this, we need much more effective employment and financial support for parents, carers, and disabled people, and action to ensure everyone can have the security we all need to access opportunities and have hope for the future, through more secure and flexible jobs, and investment in social housing.

“Foodbanks are not the answer. They will be there to support people as long as they are needed, but our political leaders must take bold action to build a future where everyone has enough money to afford life’s essentials.”

A former foodbank user, Val McKie, said that she had to ask for support after her husband died and her landlord sold her home, leaving her sleeping on friends’ sofas. “I was overwhelmed with shame at the situation I was in. I struggled for years before I found the courage and strength to ask for help.”

Although the average rise in foodbank use was four per cent on the previous year, some areas have experienced sharper demand, and from particular sections of the population. Families with children and working-age adults are among the most frequent users of foodbanks, but there has been a 27-per-cent increase in the number of pensioners needing emergency food in the past year.

In Leeds, Wendy Doyle said that the Trust had experienced a 34-per-cent increase in families, and a 27-per-cent increase in pensioners’ needing help over the past 12 months. “Our volunteers are telling us that they are dealing with pensioners who can’t afford to put food on the table due to having to pay higher energy costs, and that is the choice they are having to make.

“A lady who came to the foodbank recently told us that she had never had to use charity before. She said that she had always been able to manage, even while bringing four children up on her own, but, when she came to the foodbank, she was in a situation where she had to choose between keeping warm or eating.

“We were able to provide her with the help she needed, and refer her on to an agency for additional support, but it’s not right that people are put in these positions. Things need to change.”

The charity’s figures also show that 40 per cent of those seeking help with food supplies are using a foodbank for the first time; a few years ago, they were able to survive, but they are now struggling.

The Trussell Trust data is drawn from its 1699 locations in the UK. There are at least 1172 independent foodbanks, run by other organisations, such as the Salvation Army; so the scale of the need for emergency support is even greater than its own figures suggest, the Trust says.

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