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Food bank use soars above pre-pandemic levels

Emma Lunn
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Emma Lunn

The Trussell Trust distributed more than 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022.

Figures from the charity show that this is an increase of 14% compared to the same period in 2019/20, with 832,000 of the food parcels going to children.

The Trussell Trust warned last year that it expected food bank usage to increase over the winter, and its latest data shows that these concerns have been realised.

The charity says it has seen an “overall acceleration” of need for emergency food parcels at food banks within the Trussell Trust network since October 2021.

The figures for April 2021 to March 2022 represent an 81% increase from the same period five years ago and a 14% increase from 2019/20.

There was a 17% increase in the number of parcels distributed in October to December 2021 compared to the same period in 2019, and a 22% increase from January to February 2022 compared to the same period in 2020.

These increases have coincided with the removal of the £20 per week uplift to Universal Credit (UC), that came into force in October 2021. This reduced the annual income of millions of people by £1,040 a year.

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, says: “People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.

“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.

“There is still time for the UK government to do the right thing. We are calling on the UK government to bring benefits in line with the true cost of living. As an urgent first step benefits should be increased by at least 7%, keeping pace with increases in the cost of living. In the longer term, we need the government to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure that everyone has enough money in their pockets to be prevented from falling into destitution.”

“By failing to make benefits payments realistic for the times we face, the government now risks turning the cost of living crisis into a national emergency.”

Thomas Cave, policy and public affairs manager at Turn2us, says: “Food bank volunteers across the UK have risen to an unprecedented challenge in supporting people struggling to afford the basics. However, it should not be left to charities to pick up the pieces of a failing social security system which is pushing millions of people to the doors of food banks.

“The soaring cost of living will no doubt force more families across the country into impossible choices of hardship over the coming months. Now more than ever, it is time for the government to reassess the effectiveness of our social security system to ensure everyone has enough to meet their essential costs. One of the most effective things the government can do is uprate benefits in line with inflation immediately. In the longer term, we need an overhaul of social security and crisis support so that no one is pushed into destitution.”