The number of people reliant on food banks to help feed themselves and their families could rocket to more than two million, according to new research.
Research by Dr Rachel Loopstra, from Oxford University, forecasts that Tory plans for a further £12bn in welfare cuts could lead to a doubling in food banks users by 2017.
Trussell Trust, who operates over 440 food banks, gave out 1,084,604 emergency food parcels in 2014/15 – up from 61,468 in 2010/11.
The charity is just one of many food bank providers, charities and churches supporting hungry families across the UK.
The research also shows that rising food bank use is due to higher demand, rather than greater supply – as claimed by some government ministers.
According to a formula devised by Dr Loopstra, the number of food parcels given out per head of the population rises by 0.16% for every 1% cut in welfare spending.
Dr Loopstra said: “It coincides with spending cuts, welfare reform and record numbers of benefit claimants losing payments due to sanctions.”
Labour’s Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Rachel Reeves seized on the figures, saying they were further evidence of the hardship and misery caused by Tory welfare policy.
“It would be an absolute disgrace for food bank use to double”, she said.
“The welfare state is there to provide a safety net. It’s not doing what it’s meant to do when people have to rely on charity.”
Reeves said David Cameron’s pledge of more savage cuts to welfare benefits means he has no choice but to cut working-age benefits, because the Tories have ruled out any changes to pensions and pensioner benefits.
“The Tories cannot achieve their £12bn of cuts to social security without doing so and hitting family budgets hard”, she said.
“Child benefit and tax credits are now on the ballot paper next week. Labour will protect them, and families across the country now know the Tories will cut them again.”
Reeves blamed benefit delays, sanctions and the hated bedroom tax for the increased demand on food banks.
She said Labour was the only party committed to reducing the reliance on food banks.
> But hang on… didn’t she say Labour didn’t want to be the party of the unemployed ? And aren’t Labour promising more Workfare ?
“A Labour government would do this by axing the bedroom tax, getting rid of benefit sanctions targets and introducing protections for people with mental health problems, carers, pregnant women and people at risk of domestic violence.”
She added: “It’s inevitable, if the Tories get back in, that we will see further food bank use.”
Trussell Trust’s Adrian Curtis said: “Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers in the UK today.”
Source – Welfare Weekly, 04 May 2015
Thousands of Hartlepool families have been given vital help following heartfelt pleas to a foodbank.
Hartlepool Foodbank gave 4,222 people three days of emergency food in 2014-15, compared to 4783 in 2013-14.
The figures included 1,147 children getting help from the foodbank.
Bosses at the foodbank, which is one of 400 nationally run by the Trussell Trust, have praised communities for helping the cause, which saw people in Hartlepool donate 38 tonnes of food.
The top three reasons for foodbank referrals were benefit delay 33 per cent, low income 25 per cent and benefit changes 11 per cent.
A spokesman for the Trussell Trust said:
“Thanks to the generous donations from members of the public Hartlepool Foodbank is often able to provide some basic toiletries in addition to the emergency food, to families who are at struggling point, as well as signposting them to other services in the local area.
“Many Trussell Trust foodbanks, including Hartlepool Foodbank, are partnering with other agencies to provide additional services such as welfare advice, budgeting help and debt support from their premises, helping people to break out of crisis.”
Nationally last year 1,084,604 people – including 396,997 children – received three days’ food from the Trussell Trust’s network of foodbanks in 2014/15, compared with 913,138 in the 2013/14 financial year, an increase of 19 per cent.
Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis said:
“Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today. It’s difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don’t include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.
Adrian Curtis added: “Trussell Trust foodbanks are increasingly hosting additional services like debt counselling and welfare advice at our foodbanks, which is helping more people out of crisis. 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; what people who have gone hungry have to say holds the key to finding the solution.”
Source – Hartlepool Mail, 23 Apr 2015
Record numbers of starving people are turning to food banks to help feed themselves and their families, shocking new figures reveal.
More than one million people received three-days worth of emergency food from the charity Trussell Trust in the year 2014/15, compared to more than 900,000 in the previous year.
The figures published by the Trussell Trust, supported by the Faculty of Health and Children’s Society, reveal the unquestionable reality of food poverty in Britain today – and the plight faced by so many families struggling to make ends meet.
A total of 1,084,604 people were given food parcels by the charity in the last year, including 396,997 hungry children – up 19% from 2013/14.
Meanwhile, the total number of food banks launched by Trussell Trust rose by just 5%, quashing claims made by some government ministers that rising food bank use is linked to the increased availability of ‘free food’.
Benefit delays and sanctions remain the largest driver of food bank use, but the figures also suggest that there has been a significant rise in the number of people on low-incomes requiring food aid.
Low-income referrals to Trussell Trust food banks, just one of many charities and organisations supporting the poorest in society, has grown by 20% since 2013/14.
The number of people citing benefit delays and changes as the main reason for turning to food banks has decreased slightly from 48% to 44%.
Referrals due to sickness, homelessness, delayed wages and unemployment have also increased slightly.
According to Trussell Trust, 10,280 tonnes of food were donated by the public last year.
A recent survey of 86 food banks provided greater clarity as to why people are turning to food banks. The main reasons given were low income, delays in benefit payments, sanctions and debt.
Mother of two, Susan says:
“I have an 18 month old son and an eight year old stepson, I work part time as a teacher and my husband has an insecure agency contract.
“There are times when he doesn’t get enough hours of work, and we really struggle to afford food and pay the bills. The food bank meant we could put food on the table.”
Trussell Trust UK food bank director Adrian Curtis said:
“Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today.
“It’s difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don’t include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.”
Trussell Trust draws attention to the tragic story of a mum who was skipping meals to feed her children. “There are people out there more desperate than me. I’ve got a sofa to sell before I’ll go to the food bank”, she says.
“It’s a pride thing. You don’t want people to know you’re on benefits.”
Adrian Curtis continues:
“Trussell Trust food banks are increasingly hosting additional services like debt counselling and welfare advice at our food banks, which is helping more people out of crisis.
“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 food banks to truly understand the nature of the problems they face; what people who have gone hungry have to say holds the key to finding the solution”
Marcella, a former dental assistant recovering from a spinal operation, was helped by a food bank and said:
“It’s so hard to pay rent and survive at the moment. I have friends who are working minimum wage jobs who have had to go to food banks.
“People should not just be surviving, they should be able to live and have a life. I was less than surviving when I went to the food bank.
“Going to a food bank was very emotional for me, I felt a bit ashamed at not being able to support myself but they took the pressure off, they gave me advice and helped me to find a support worker.
“The food bank gave me faith that there are people who understand and who you can trust. We need to stop judging people and listen to every individual and understand how they got into the situation.”
Dr John Middleton, Vice President of Faculty of Public Health said:
“The rising number of families and individuals who cannot afford to buy sufficient food is a public health issue that we must not ignore.
“For many people, it is not a question of eating well and eating healthily, it is a question of not being able to afford to eat at all.
“UK poverty is already creating massive health issues for people today, and if we do not tackle the root causes of food poverty now we will see it affecting future generations too.
“The increased burden of managing people’s health will only increase if we do not address the drivers of people to food banks.”
Over 90% of Trussell Trust food banks provide additional services alongside food to help people out of crisis long-term.
Source – Welfare Weekly, 22 Apr 2015
Families who rely too heavily on food banks may suffer nutritional deficiencies because so much of the produce is processed rather than fresh, it has been claimed.
Mel Wakeman, a senior lecturer specialising in health and nutrition at Birmingham City University, warned that families forced into prolonged use of food banks may not be eating a balanced diet.
She and students analysed food typically on offer at food banks and drew up menus based on the items available.
“We found that it’s very much processed food being donated, with little fresh produce,” said Wakeman.
“The meal plans we came up with revealed that in the long term there is a real risk of children and families becoming deficient in fibre, calcium, iron and a variety of vitamins.
“We’re not criticising what food banks are doing and, of course, only food that is safe to eat should be available, which limits the handling of perishable food.”
When Wakeman and her students looked at what was available at food banks, they found items such as tinned soup, meat, puddings and pasta sauce dominated.
“I would like to see more fresh produce in there,” she said.
“If levels of poverty continue to rise, then the level of support given to food banks may have to be increased so we don’t have a situation where families are prevented from accessing nutritious food. Over longer periods eating donated food that is often refined could result in nutritional deficiencies.”
In 2013-14 food banks helped feed almost a million people in the UK, about a third of whom were children. Many food banks say their services should be used as emergency stopgaps.
But there is anecdotal evidence that many people use food banks for longer periods. A project in south-west England told last year’s all-party parliamentary inquiry into hunger and food poverty that it was supporting people for up to 12 weeks.
An Oxfam report gives the example of a single mother with three sons surviving for eight weeks with the help of food bank donations, while the user of a food bank in south-east London told researchers from Goldsmiths, University of London, they had been using a food bank for almost a year.
Beyond the anecdotal evidence, however, it is hard to find out how many people are using food banks for long periods. The all-party inquiry said there were a huge number of initiatives in the UK and the “food aid landscape” was difficult to document. In its report, the inquiry “detected some concern among food banks and food assistance providers about an over-reliance on donations; both in terms of the quality and variety of food supplied and the reliability of future supply”.
It also said:
“A large number of food assistance providers told us that barriers around cost and storage prevented them from asking for donations of fresh food.”
The largest of the networks, the Trussell Trust, which runs 420 food banks in partnership with communities and churches, operates a strict policy of providing “nutritionally balanced ambient food” to help out in a short-term crisis and is careful to work with clients to make sure they do not become dependent on the food bank. Some of its centres provide fresh food.
Adrian Curtis, food bank network director at the Trussell Trust, said: “Although we do not place a limit on the length of support we offer to clients, our systems monitor usage with referral organisations to avoid dependency.”
The charity’s Eat Well, Spend Less project aims to teach cooking skills and budgeting.
Wakeman raised the problem of over-reliance on food banks at a conference to discuss child poverty in Birmingham organised by the News in Brum organisation.
A series of meetings are to be held for members of the public to work out ways of helping the tackle the problem. A working group will also be established to help students work with community groups in the city on the issue.
Source – The Guardian, 18 Mar 2015
North East teachers say they worry about the health of nearly two in five pupils when they return from school holidays because they are not given enough to eat.
Research by Kellogg’s also found that while holidays should be a fun time for families, term time breaks put an extra burden on the food budget of 27 per cent of parents in the region – with 17 per cent of parents struggling to feed their children three meals a day.
Of the 39 per cent of teachers who say there are pupils in their school that do not get enough to eat over the school holidays, more than a third of staff notice children returning to class with signs of weight loss and 43 per cent have seen a noticeable difference in their readiness to learn when they return for the new term.
And 30 per cent of North East teachers think offering holiday clubs at their school would ensure that children get fed properly, while 67 per cent believe they would give the added bonus of providing children with extra learning opportunities over the summer.
Adrian Curtis is director of the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, which has two sites in Newcastle, one in Gateshead and one in Durham.
He said: “These are sad statistics when children spend 170 days out of school compared to 190 days in the classroom.
“School holidays are especially difficult for low income families whose children usually receive free school meals or support from breakfast clubs. Many are deeply concerned about being able to feed their children over the long break, and may resort to skipping meals to feed their children.”
He added: “Last year we saw foodbank usage in August increase by over a fifth compared to the same time in June, before the holidays began, and we expect this year’s figures to reflect a similar trend.
“On top of the existing work foodbanks do to help families struggling during the holidays, we have started to partner with companies, like Kellogg’s, to pilot running holiday breakfast clubs for families whose incomes are stretched to breaking point.”
The Kellogg’s Holiday Breakfast Club programme is held in schools, community centres and foodbanks across the UK to provide food and social activities. It is part of the company’s Help Give a Child a Breakfast initiative which aims to feed 80,000 families in need every day.
Katy Luke, manager of Blyth Valley Barnardos children’s centre, said: “We are aware that many families we work with are living in poverty and holidays are expensive for them, even when meeting basic costs not to mention treats which children hope to have on holiday.
“In our centre arrange a programme of activities that are free or low cost and we give families ideas of how to entertain youngster without having to break the bank. We also offer parents help during term time on how to cook healthy family meals on a tight budget.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 22 Aug 2014