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Food banks at ‘breaking point’ as demand outstrips donations

Paloma Kubiak
Written By:
Paloma Kubiak

Food bank use is soaring amid the cost-of-living crisis, with nearly 1.3 million emergency parcels being given in the six months to September – a record high for the period.

In the last six months, 320,000 people have turned to food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK network – a 40% increase compared to 2021.

Of the near 1.3 million food parcels provided, Trussell Trust said half a million went to children.

Overall, it has seen a big uptake, giving a third more emergency food parcels compared to the same six-month period last year. The figures are also up more than 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels.

In the first half of this financial year alone, Trussell Trust’s food bank network provided more parcels than in a full 12-month period five years ago, when 1.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed.

Josie Barlow, food bank manager at Bradford Foodbank, said: “Someone who came to the food bank recently told me that ‘buying milk is a luxury now’. So many people are struggling with bills and food prices. We are fortunate to be able to help people and we work hard to support them in both the short and long term, but we are also facing challenges.

“We have seen a huge increase in people coming to the food bank in the last two months compared to the same period last year and our stock levels are very low for this time of the year.”

‘Tsunami of need’

The charity, which runs 1,300 food bank centres nationwide, said the cost-of-living crisis has created a “tsunami of need” with demand outstripping donations for the first time in its history.

The charity warned that food banks are at “breaking point”, both physically and mentally, and are set to face the hardest winter yet as they expect to provide more than 7,000 emergency food parcels a day on average in the next six months.

It has launched an emergency appeal for more donations so that food banks “can meet the alarming level of need in their communities” and it is calling on the government to “act decisively” in next week’s Budget.

Trussell Trust revealed that July’s cost-of-living payment correlated with a small dip in need at food banks, but added that short-term interventions are neither “sustainable for government nor dignified for people who are struggling”.

It said this doesn’t solve the longer-term problem of people having to rely on food banks, and said that one in five people referred to it are in working households.

The charity is supporting more and more people who are working but still can’t afford the essentials. Many food banks are having to change their opening times to make sure working people can pick up their parcels outside of work hours.

‘Hardest winter yet’

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “These statistics show that, even in summer months, people are struggling to afford the essentials and we are expecting that this winter will be the hardest yet for food banks and the people they support. This is not right.

“We know that with the right support and a stable and sufficient income, people don’t need to turn to food banks for support.

“Over the last few years, the government has acted to protect people who are struggling, and this action has made a difference. They must now act again: with swift support now to help people through the winter, and with vision for the longer-term to ensure that social security is always enough to weather challenging times.

“We are calling for the Prime Minister to act decisively in next week’s Budget.

“We urge the UK government to realise their commitment of supporting people on the lowest income with a broad package of support. As well as ensuring that benefits rise with inflation as soon as possible, this must go further to close the gap between price rises and incomes over the winter.”