Foodbank use tops one million for the first time

The Trussell Trust says that 400,000 children were referred to foodbanks in 2014

 

The Trussell Trust, the UK’s biggest foodbank charity, has released figures today showing that foodbank use is at an all time high.

Last year more than a million people used Trussell Trust foodbanks to receive three days’ worth of emergency food, including 400,000 children. This figure is up from 900,000 last year.

The charity says that problems with benefits remain the biggest driver of foodbank use, but that the past year has seen a two per cent increase in the number of ‘low income’ referrals. Foodbank managers report that clients who are in work are struggling with the combination of insecure work, low wages and high living costs.

Meanwhile, the number of clients driven by benefit delays and changes has proportionally decreased from 48 per cent to 44 per cent over the past year .

Referrals to foodbanks due to sickness, homelessness, delayed wages and unemployment have increased slightly.

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Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis said of the findings: 

“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.”

One mother interviewed by the charity said she was skipping meals so that she could feed her children, but was too ashamed to visit a foodbank:

“There are people out there more desperate than me. I’ve got a sofa to sell before I’ll go to the food bank. It’s a pride thing. You don’t want people to know you’re on benefits.”

Curtis added that most foodbanks were now hosting additional services to help people get out of long term economic crisis, such as debt counselling and welfare advice. The figures show that last year there was a five per cent increase in the total numbers of food banks launched, while the number of people helped by foodbanks rose by 19 per cent.

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There are the most foodbank users in the North West of England, followed by Scotland. Northern Ireland has the lowest number of foodbank users, followed by the East Midlands.

The general secretary of the TUC, Frances O’Grady, said today:

“This should make all of us ashamed, particularly those who claim we have a strong economy and everyone is sharing in the recovery.”

The impact on children is particularly concerning. Carmel McConnell, the chief executive of the charity Magic Breakfast, which delivers free breakfasts to schools where 35 per cent of children are eligible for free meals, says that their waiting list now stands at 270 schools, an all time high. She said:

“When children start their school day hungry, they cannot concentrate and risk missing the most important lessons of the day.”

The Faculty of Public Health said today that it supported the Trussell Trust’s call to listen to the experiences of people using foodbanks, in order to gain an insight into how best to end food poverty in the UK.

Ruby Stockham is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow her on Twitter

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