Analysis: Demand for food banks remains high around the country leading up to Christmas

We find examples from December of increasing food bank use. Is this the news we can expect of a government fully committed to assaulting poverty?


Yesterday – the last day before Parliament closes for Christmas – the government pushed out 36 statements containing varying degrees of bad news, from badgers to extremists, fracking to police funding.

One big piece of news – or at least, a piece of news that should be big – is that the removal of the spare room subsidy, which everyone else calls the Bedroom Tax, has resulted in hardship for those affected. Nearly half have had to cut back on essential purchases such as food.

The report, ordered by the Government, found that three quarters of people affected by the changes often found too much month at the end of their money. This was shockingly highlighted earlier in the month when researchers from Manchester University found children showing signs of distress when their parents faced pressure and material hardship as a result of benefit cuts.

It’s no wonder the latest report was buried in the news with a huge number of other announcements. It contradicts the message, hotly pursued by the government, that a rise in employment is having a positive effect on poverty and hardship, boosting a key trope: work pays.

Indeed just under a fortnight ago, a new report from the All Party Parliamentary Group for Hunger published findings showing how foodbank usage had tailed off.

In response, an official spokesman said Ministers would consider the Parliamentary report, adding “This Government is committed to an all-out assault on poverty … Work is the best route and with a stronger economy, we have record numbers in work.”

However, as Frank Field MP, who commissioned the report, pointed out: “We must stress that a levelling off in some areas, although most welcome, is a huge distance from abolishing hunger.” The report finds that an ease in demand could be to do with welfare changes, sanctions for wrong claims, and cuts to the numbers of vouchers handed claimants. Certainly nothing to cheer about.

So close to Christmas, a report hurriedly published showing how people affected by the spare room subsidy are increasingly likely to go without food, combined with a recent report that shows a cut to the number of people being handed vouchers for food bank claims, should make us despair at what this government is doing (or not doing) on tackling poverty.

Even if claimants aren’t being connected to the correct services, food banks around the country are still braced for record demand as we enter the holiday period:

  • December foodbank usage up by 77% in Glasgow (Source)
  • A Croydon food bank is buckling under the pressure of increased demand and could be forced to close, its founder has warned – removing a lifeline for hundreds of struggling families in the borough. (Source)
  • Worcester Foodbank, based in Carden Close, near City Walls Road, has asked for donation of baby food including SMA milk and dog food. (Source)
  • Tayside and Fife foodbanks are braced for a huge spike in demand this Christmas, as families increasingly struggle with the cost of the festive season. (Source)
  • A food bank in Henley has seen an increase in demand. The Light House has organised the delivery of 115 food bags to needy residents this Christmas. Families of four people or fewer receive two bags and families of five or more receive four bags. (Source)
  • Local officials say they continue to see a demand for food bank assistance within Ross County as poverty data from a national survey indicates the need for help across the state is trending up since the end of the Great Recession (Source)
  • Low income families among those seeking help at Kingston foodbank as demand remains high (Source)
  • Lacombe Community Food Bank sees increase in demand (Source)
  • Reading food bank in need of help and food during Christmas (Source)
  • Stevenage food bank sees rise in number of users in the run-up to Christmas (Source)
  • Bonnie Pedersen, volunteer president of the Lewis County Food Bank Coalition, said the food banks are busiest beginning about two weeks before Thanksgiving through the end of December with an increase in both clients and donations. (Source)
  • A Sleaford food bank is appealing for donations to keep up with demand after almost 30 hard-up households turned to them for Christmas dinner last year. (Source)

These are all examples from December. Is this the news we can expect of a government fully committed to assaulting poverty?

21 Responses to “Analysis: Demand for food banks remains high around the country leading up to Christmas”

  1. CGR

    The BBC programme “More or Less” investigated food banks and found that almost all users only make one visit. They are a means of meeting short term needs between jobs and only a very small number make multiple visits.

    There is very little real poverty in the UK

  2. Brad JJ

    To my surprise I found out last year that I live in the eightieth percentile of income in my region. In my street everyone of working age is employed. The areas of hardship three or four streets away are as much owing to drug abuse and refusing to work as anything else. We do not have a food bank in our area.

  3. Intolerant_Liberal

    The rise of food banks is an indictment on a divisive Tory government that is enriching the already wealthy at the expense of the working poor.

    ‘Is this the news we can expect of a government fully committed to assaulting poverty?’ Which government is that??? Do you mean the unprincipled Bullingdon boy tyrants in power now??? Please tell me that was a light hearted Christmas joke. Did you get it out of a cracker??

  4. Cole

    How nice that you live in a reasonably well off community. Many people do not.

  5. Brad JJ

    The eightieth percentile means that 79% of the population are better off! What do you think the 80th percentile is? A middle class suburb?

    I live in a poor area! And a little ignorant jerk like you makes a trashy stupid comment. Why?

  6. Cole

    No need to get in a temper. Are you really saying that food banks are unnecessary just because of little personal anecdote?

    Maybe you’re one of these people who think the only poor people are idle or drug addicts.

  7. Brad JJ

    If I wanted to say they were unnecessary I would have said so. I think they serve a useful purpose. What is wrong with you? Can you not read something without investing it with prejudices already formed in your mind?

  8. stephen bellamy

    oh don’t worry about the hungry. The Jewish Diaspora have it it all taken care of.

  9. Woo11

    No,* some * of the Jewish Diaspora, as the article says quite clearly. The Right wing of the Jewish Diaspora – nothing new there then – just like the non Jewish right… We have to learn to identify the enemy clearly, we cant afford to make mistakes.

  10. Woo11

    How do you define “real poverty”? Out of interest

  11. Woo11

    How do you define ‘real poverty in the UK’ ? As a matter of interest.

  12. Woo11

    I think that if you are interested enough to refer people to the BBC programme of May 2014, you are doing everyone a disservice unless you acknowledge that actual usage of food banks is not truly known. All vouchers allocated by all organisations to all food banks is the only way to know this, the Gvt is not willing to record it. There are hundreds if not thousands of other food banks not run by the Trussel Trust, eg Church, Gudwara and Mosque groups are one such example. When I tried to find a food bank in my local area to donate to, it was quite difficult to do, I eventually found a Church group operating one. ( A more depressing visit I have to say would be hard to replicate, the children for instance seemed to keep their eyes fixed to the ground, ashamed? Certainly uncomfortable, as were the adults. I didn’t know where to look myself. And the stats do not account for all those who refuse for one reason or another to accept charity food, but who are short of food, and/or who are malnourished.

    Surely just a look at the weekly amount of Job Seekers Allowance for single people aged 18-24 £57.90, 25 and older £73.10, Couples £114.85. If they have children £20.70 for eldest or only child and £13.70 for each additional child, is enough to make any person see that there must be food insecurity/deprivation among these individuals. ALL their living expenses having to come out of that apart from rent – supposing that the full rent is granted by Housing Benefit. But this group are not even eligible for food vouchers, it is people on even less than that who are. The unemployed food bank users have also to be added to figures of working people also qualifying for food vouchers, there are many varied reasons for this, but the fact that their income is so low as to qualify is enough. It doesn’t take a huge amount of calculation to realise that there must be food insecurity for all those living on JSA, and those in receipt of Working Tax Credit.

    Yes some of the individuals having to visit food banks may be those in between jobs with no income, and some are individuals who have had benefits sanctioned – some for the most questionable reasons (Job Centre staff also work to targets, and such are the rules now that “sanctions” can be imposed unfairly and arbitrarily), and some are working for very little income.

    More in depth analysis of the statistics of the Trussel Trust can be found in the article by The Guardian one year after the above BBC one, May 2015.

  13. Woo11

    Addiction is always, all over the world, associated with indicators of deprivation – social and financial, sometimes it is also generational, a loss of hope, a desire to kill yourself, a desire not to exist. Not exclusive to deprivation, but pronounced within that social group. They are not just “in hardship” because they abuse drugs or alcohol, they are self abusers who also are income deprived. I’m not sure whether you are saying that the areas of “hardship” are all drug abusers, and all refuse to work? On the latter, its very very hard to refuse to work nowadays and have an income – unless your income is from areas outside the law.

  14. Brad JJ

    Associated with does not mean causative, Evidence to the contrary is those who change their lives by breaking the habit. There are also massive addiction problems among the better off and the wealthy including alcohol, cocaine and prescription drugs.well-off.

    Your statement about very very hard to refuse to work assumes individuals not living with families. All addicts nearby where I live are in family homes. They are most often the children of the working poor.

  15. Woo11

    You missed a bit! ‘ Not exclusive to deprivation, but pronounced within that social group.’

  16. Brad JJ

    You are right. Apologies.

  17. Woo11

    That’s ok.

  18. mightymark

    No you are wrong – he clearly means “Jewish” (otherwise why add “diaspora” – incidentally excluding Israel – but maybe he just missed a trick there !)). Why are you apologising for him rather than letting his racism stand out like a floating turd?

  19. Woo11

    I’ll have to read it again… I did read it rather quickly, I am very uncomfortable with all racism – and its gone crazy now

  20. mightymark

    Let me know what you think when you have re read it!

  21. Woo11

    To all those who say there is very little poverty in the UK, more than 103,000 children will be homeless at Christmas, and 56,560 families. Those are figures from Shelter. I trust no-one has the audacity to quibble with them – or “real poverty in the UK”. Merry Christmas !

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