More than a million food parcels given to children last year in Britain

Mother and son at a food bank putting together a food parcel
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The Trussell Trust said on 26 April that it had handed out 1.1m food parcels to children in the year to the end of March 2023. This figure accounted for more than a third of the nearly three million parcels it distributed in total. What’s more, it represents the crushing momentum of the UK’s cost of living crisis.

Not a full picture

The nearly three million parcels were distributed from the Trussell Trust’s more than 1300 food banks nationwide. Of these, more than 760,000 people used a food bank for the first time in the past 12 months. That’s 38% more than in 2021-22.

Meanwhile, the 1.1m figure for children represents an increase of 300,000 from the previous 12 months. However, as the Trussell Trust itself noted, these figures don’t fully represent the scale of food poverty across the country:

The Independent Food Aid Network has identified at least 1,172 independent food banks, while there are also Salvation Army food banks as well as food banks run from schools and hospitals. There are also thousands of food of other food aid providers including soup kitchens and social supermarkets.

Nonetheless, the numbers are helpful in understanding how demand for food banks has grown. In 2017-18, for example, the Trust handed fewer than 500,000 food parcels out to children. The total number of parcels handed out that year was just over 1.3m.

According to the World Bank, the UK is the 28th richest country in the world when ranked by gross national income.

Food parcels are now the norm

Food banks are now a staple of many people’s lives. Increasing costs combined with wage stagnation have pushed many to seek help for the first time – including those in work. In November 2022, the Trussell Trust said that one in five people referred to its food banks were from households where someone worked. This led some food banks to open at 8am so people could pick parcels up on their way to work.

Read on...

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Following the release of the most recent figures, chief executive of South Tyneside food bank Brian Thomas said:

We are experiencing an unprecedented rise in the number of people coming to the food bank, particularly employed people who are no longer able to balance a low income against rising living costs

We’re also seeing a really high number of families needing support as people struggle to afford the essentials.

Moreover, Thomas pointed out that the cost of living crisis was creating problems at the other end of the chain:

Food donation levels are not keeping up with the significant increase in need and this is putting us under a lot of strain, it’s a real pressure cooker situation for food banks

The right solutions

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said food banks were set up to provide short-term support to people in an emergency. However, they have now become the norm for low-paid workers and people receiving welfare payments.

“They are not a lasting solution to hunger and poverty,” Revie said, adding that more than 75% of the UK population agreed food banks shouldn’t need to exist.

The Trussell Trust is urging the Conservative government to increase welfare payments to a more realistic level so that they cover essential costs. Similarly, the Child Poverty Action Group previously said that a £10-per-week increase in child benefit would lift some 450,000 children across England and Wales out of poverty.

Featured image via ITV News/YouTube

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse

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