New figures released by the Trussell Trust reveal that almost 3 million (2,986,203) emergency food parcels were provided to people facing hardship between April 2022 and March 2023, with more than a million of these parcels provided for children.
This is the most parcels food banks in the charity’s UK-wide network have ever distributed in a single year and represents a 37% increase compared to last year.
The annual statistics also show that as an increasing number of people struggle to afford the essentials, more than 760,000 people used a food bank in the Trussell Trust network for the first time – this is more than the population of Sheffield and a 38% increase in people who have needed support for the first time, compared to the same period last year.
The levels of need were particularly acute in winter, and December 2022 was the busiest month on record for the network, with a parcel being distributed by staff and volunteers across the country every eight seconds.
Brian Thomas, Chief Executive at South Tyneside Foodbank 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. 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.”
Speaking about the rising need for emergency food, Emma Revie, Chief Executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “These new statistics are extremely concerning and show that an increasing number of people are being left with no option but to turn to charitable, volunteer-run organisations to get by and this is not right.
“The continued increase in parcel numbers over the last five years indicates that it is ongoing low levels of income and a social security system that isn’t fit for purpose that are forcing more people to need food banks, rather than just the recent cost of living crisis or the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Food banks were set up to provide short-term support to people in an emergency, they are not a lasting solution to hunger and poverty, and more than three quarters of the UK population agree with us that they should not need to exist.
“The staff and volunteers in our network are working tirelessly to ensure help continues to be available, but the current situation is not one they can solve alone.
“For too long people have been going without because social security payments do not reflect life’s essential costs and people are being pushed deeper into hardship as a result. If we are to stop this continued growth and end the need for food banks, then the UK government must ensure that the standard allowance of Universal Credit is always enough to cover essential costs.”
John, 35, has had to use a food bank when he lost his home and his job and became homeless:
“When I was homeless, food banks saved me. They provided me with food, shower gels and other necessities I couldn’t afford. But it also gave me somewhere to go for a chat or to see someone. The kindness I was shown there, has stuck with me.
“I currently volunteer at my local food bank as a trustee, and I help run the food bank. I work three days a week. I wanted to pass on the kindness I was first shown when I needed a food bank. My experience has helped me to be better equipped to understand the tough situations some people are in when they need our food bank, and I can show empathy and understanding. But ultimately, food banks shouldn’t be needed in the first place, everyone should be able to afford to buy their own food and afford the essentials.”
The Trussell Trust’s long-term goal to end the need for food banks is one that the general public agree with. Polling by YouGov on behalf of the Trussell Trust suggests that the public are increasingly concerned with issues related to poverty and hunger in the UK. The majority of the UK public (77%) think that food banks should not be needed in the UK, with a strong majority agreeing (93%) that everyone should be able to buy enough food for themselves and their family.
To help ensure that everyone has the income they need to afford the essentials, the Trussell Trust is calling for the UK government to act now to strengthen our social security system.
The charity has joined with Joseph Rowntree Foundation in urging the UK government to embed in law an ‘Essentials Guarantee’ that would make sure Universal Credit payments always, at a minimum, provide enough to the cover cost of essentials such as food, utilities and vital household goods.
Research by the charities reveals that the £85 weekly Universal Credit standard allowance is at least £35 less than the weekly cost of essential items for a single person, contributing to hundreds of thousands of people being forced to use food banks because they can’t make ends meet.
The Essentials Guarantee would be enshrined in law and set regularly, based on an independent recommendation, and would be the first time since the welfare state was created that social security rates were based on what people need, and how much those things actually cost.
The charities calculated that a list of essential items including water bills, gas and electric, travel expenses, food items such as bread, rice and vegetables, and hygiene and cleaning products like toothpaste and washing up liquid currently costs approximately £120 per week for a single person.
To find out more about the campaign visit the Trussell Trust’s website.
To view the Trussell Trust’s annual food parcel data for 2022/23, visit trusselltrust.org/end-of-year-stats.