Record new food bank figures a 'stain on society'

By John Mercury May 15, 2024

A record 3.1 million emergency food parcels have been handed out in just a year, according to a charity.

The Trussell Trust says 3,121,404 were distributed by its network of 1,300 food banks in the year to the end of March.

Some 1,144,096 were for children and nearly two million for adults. The total is nearly double that of five years ago.

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The number of parcels given out during the 12 months to March 2023 was just under three million.

While the number of first-time users this year – 655,000 – is a slight drop, it’s still a rise of 40% compared with five years ago.

And the number of parcels given to someone of state pension age also increased by 27% to 179,000, according to the trust.

A foodbank in Leeds is among those seeing more demand from older people.

“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,” said Wendy Doyle, operations manager at Leeds South and East Foodbank.

Val McKie, who previously used food banks after she was left “couch-surfing and destitute” when her husband died and work dried up, said the rising need for food support is a “stain on our society”.

“I was overwhelmed with shame at the situation I was in,” said Ms McKie.

“I struggled for years before I found the courage and strength to ask for help, these feelings are shared by so many people who need the support of food banks.”

The number of parcels given out over the last 12 months is nearly double that of five years ago

The Trussell Trust wants politicians to back a “supportive social security system” for parents, carers and people with disabilities who face increased living costs.

Emma Revie, the trust’s chief executive, said the UK was facing “historically high levels of food bank need”.

“As a society, we cannot allow this to continue. We must not let food banks become the new norm,” she said.

“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 food bank to survive.”

Social change group the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) repeated calls for a protected minimum amount of financial support so people can afford the essentials.

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Iain Porter, JRF senior policy adviser, said: “This is not what an economy returning to full health looks like.

“The latest record-breaking emergency food parcel figures show the painful economic reality facing families with the least.”

He said the issue was one that “no political party can ignore in this election year”.

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Alison McGovern, Labour’s acting shadow work and pensions secretary, said the “dreadful” figures “lay bare the reality facing households across the country after 14 years of Tory misery”.

She said Labour would tackle the “root causes of poverty” – for example building more affordable housing and protecting renters, cutting school uniform costs and providing breakfast clubs in every primary school.

The government said its cost-of-living support package had prevented 1.3 million people falling into poverty in 2022-23.

It said it was also “raising the National Living Wage, cutting taxes and driving down inflation while investing billions through our Back to Work Plan”.


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