The State of Hunger  – a foundation for a plan to end the need for food banks

14 May

By Tom Weekes, Research Manager

Yesterday the Trussell Trust released the second State of Hunger report, a comprehensive study of the scale and drivers of hunger in the UK. The report was launched at the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for Ending the Need for Food Banks as part of a wide-ranging discussion of food bank use and destitution, including how to tackle the key drivers of both. The insight provided by the report provides the first step in developing a plan to ensure no one has to be forced to use a food bank.

The cross-party group heard from panellists including Crossbench Peer and former government advisor on social policy Dame Louise Casey, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Helen Barnard, the Trussell Trust’s Emma Revie, and Conservative Peer and Chief Executive of the Legatum Institute Baroness Stroud.

While reflecting on the last year, the discussion broadly welcomed the efforts that the UK Government had made to prevent more people falling into destitution, including the furlough scheme and the £20 uplift to Universal Credit. At the same time, panellists across the board recognised that this was not enough to mitigate fully the severe impact of the pandemic on levels of destitution and poverty across the UK.

The panel challenged the UK government to do more. As Dame Louise Casey had earlier written, “The need for food banks is such a sign of failure and it does not have to be this way.” They called on the Government to build a plan to end the need for food banks and ensure that the UK Government’s focus on levelling up includes jobs, incomes, and decent living standards for people.

This year’s report provides a depth of information to form the basis of a plan to end the need for food banks. It confirms the previous findings and expands our understanding of what is driving hunger across the UK.

It highlights three key themes:

  1. Levels of need are driven by a fundamental lack of income.

The vast majority (95%) of people referred to food banks in early 2020 were destitute, meaning that their income was so low that they were unable to afford the essentials in life that we all need. These include essentials such as food, basic toiletries, and clothing. On average the level of income after housing costs for people at food banks was just £248 a month.

In early 2020 95% of people referred to food banks were destitute. The average equivalised monthly income for people referred to food banks. This was just 13% of the UK average.
  1. The design of the social security system is the key driver of low income.

Low income was mainly driven by issues with the social security system, most commonly because of the design of the system itself. During the pandemic we have seen this play out:

of people referred to food banks in mid-2020 owed money to the DWP, up from 38% before the pandemic. of people referred to food banks in mid-2020 in receipt of Universal Credit were repaying an Advance Payment.
  1. Certain groups face a disproportionate risk of needing support than others.

The report highlights that some groups are significantly overrepresented when looking at people that need support from food banks This includes disabled people, with six in ten (62%) of working-age people referred to a food bank in early 2020 reporting having a disability – that’s more than three times the rate in the UK working age population. Single parents, people living alone, and homeless people are also overrepresented.

During the pandemic, these groups largely stayed the same with some key differences. During the pandemic people referred to food banks were more likely to:

11% vs. 2% in early 2020 72% vs. 51% in early 2020 62% vs. 54% in early 2020 24% of households vs. 19% in early 2020
  • First, our social security system must provide everyone with enough income to afford the essentials.
  • Second, local lifelines must be available to get people the right support at the right time.
  • Third, if any strategy tackling hunger and destitution in the UK is to have any weight, it must involve the frontline, including organisations like food banks, and – crucially – people with lived experience.

The evidence from this report can form the basis of a plan to end the need for food banks. To support this we will, alongside speaking to those in power and working with our partners, be writing a regular blog series to unpick these findings in detail, looking at the drivers of need for food banks and the groups most at risk of needing support.

You can help us as we push for a plan to end the need for food banks by signing up to be part of the conversation for a hunger free future at: http://www.trusselltrust.org/hungerfree.

 

 

 

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A nationwide writing challenge for kids!

10 May

In the UK right now, more people than ever are facing extreme poverty, unable to afford the basics or put food on the table. Last year, food banks in our network gave out more than 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis – and almost a million of these were provided for children.

This simply isn’t right, but we know that together we can make change happen. More than 100,000 people have already signed up for our Hunger Free Future campaign, standing alongside us and people forced to use food banks to call for change. Will you join us?

As part of the campaign, we’ve launched an exciting new competition for children aged nine and under across the country to get involved and tell us what they think about poverty and hunger in the UK.

We’re asking children to get creative and take on our “Bye, Bye Hunger” writing challenge. It’s a great opportunity to have fun and do something new alongside learning about poverty and thinking about how they can make a difference.

All they need to do is think of a character, whether it’s an animal, an alien, or a monster, and write a poem telling us why they’re hungry. How does being hungry make them feel? What would make them happier? What would their character do if they weren’t hungry?

You can find more details on how to enter and our entry form here. The closing date is 30 May, and the winning poems will be published in an exclusive book and ebook.

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Acceptable? A poem calling for change

27 Apr

This week, we released a brand new video of an incredible poem ‘Acceptable’ – have you seen it yet?

Written by Caroline, one of the thousands of people who’ve signed up to help us build a hunger free future, and read by food bank volunteers and staff from the UK, it describes what it’s really like to need to use a food bank, and should inspire us all to stop, reflect, and take action.

Last year, food banks in our network gave out more than 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis. Almost a million of these were provided for children.

Things like ill health or a job loss can happen to any of us – but if these hit someone when they don’t have enough support in place, it can make it more difficult to afford the essentials.

In the world’s fifth richest country, is it acceptable that anyone should need to use a food bank? That anyone should be unable to put food on the table, or struggle to pay for the basics?

It’s time for change. This simply isn’t right, and we need to make sure that strong lifelines exist to help all of us when we need it. Food bank use across our network is 128% higher now compared to the same time five years ago, and it’s time to stand up and say that we cannot accept this. We do not accept it.

Together, we know we can make change happen. Watch the full video now and share it with your friends and family now to get involved.

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Tropic Skincare helps build a hunger free future

27 Apr

Tropic Skincare are standing with the Trussell Trust to build a hunger free future and a UK without the need for food banks. Within the first six months of the partnership, Tropic has raised an amazing £100,000 in support of our work. That is double the amount in half the time Tropic and the Trussell Trust were aiming for, which is astounding. We’re very grateful for this incredible support.

Between 1 April 2020 and 31 March 2021, a record 2.5 million emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust network. That’s a shocking 33% increase in need on the previous year, and almost a million of these parcels went to children.

Need at food banks has been increasing year-on-year, and these new figures highlight an alarming 128% rise compared to this time five years ago. Importantly, our network’s figures are just the tip of the iceberg. They do not include the number of people helped by the countless new community organisations, independent food banks, and local authorities, which have sprung up during the pandemic to support their communities.

Through Tropic’s Infinite Purpose of creating a healthier, greener, more empowered world, they reached out to the Trussell Trust saying they had created a hand sanitiser specifically to support us, with all the profits being donated to support our work. The success of their campaign can be attributed to the enthusiasm and dedication of their family of ambassadors who believe in their products and are invested in Tropic’s values, that Tropic aims to be a force for good beyond beauty.

Tropic’s fantastic fundraising efforts have meant that the Trussell Trust can continue to provide their core support to food banks in the network.

This includes, but is not limited to, our operational teams providing bespoke one-to-one support to food banks, and food banks in the network having access to and the support of a range of unique cloud-based systems. The Trussell Trust also works with academics and researchers to understand the root causes of food bank referrals so we can then work with policy makers to push for changes that would better protect people from needing a food bank.

Our free telephone helpline, Help Through Hardship, run in partnership with Citizens Advice, continues to provide specialist income maximisation advice for people and families in crisis and has recovered over £7 million in benefit or tax credit gain since September 2020, approximately £3,000 in additional benefits and savings for each person supported.

The Trussell Trust is also a grant-awarding body for food banks in the network and we’ve been able to award more than £1.2 million to help food banks continue the vital work they do in their communities.

We’re so glad Tropic are partnering with the Trussell Trust and their support has made a real difference. It’s thanks to the generosity of organisations like this that we have been able to help food banks in our network support so many people during the pandemic, as well as building a hunger free future and working towards out vision of seeing a UK without the need for food banks.

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Aneita’s story

24 Apr

“Growing up, we lived in a flat in Bethnal Green that had no central heating. There were times we sat in the dark as there was no electricity.

It was a struggle. My mum had mental health issues that went undiagnosed and was left traumatised by domestic violence. There were no birthday parties, there were no friends around to play, our home never looked like my friends’ homes. I left at 18, lived in a homeless hostel for a while and then got my first flat. I had nothing, just the clothes I had. I had no one to turn to for help, I had no clue how to pay bills. When I had no money to top up the electricity, I would sit covered in blankets reading by candlelight. I had left school with no qualifications and suffered from depression as I had been through some really traumatic situations. I regularly went for days without eating. 

But it was always in me to keep fighting, changing, taking risks and seeing the opportunities. I wanted to come off benefits and work. I wanted to stand on my own two feet and be part of society. And I think that’s something benefits do. It’s almost like if you’re on benefits, you’re not part of society. 

I needed to change my situation, so I started working for the NHS. I was so proud of myself. It felt like such a weight off me. I just wanted to work my way up and build a career for myself. I worked hard and life felt better. I had a purpose. 

Then in 2012 I fell pregnant and I was so happy. I was ready to be a mum. In 2016, my financial situation changed dramatically when I moved from working full time all year round to part time in education during term time so I could look after my daughter. I checked benefit calculators to make sure I was making the right move but I was not prepared for what happened. My tax credits were stopped, I was told I had had my year’s entitlement and hit with a £5,000 bill for overpayment. I was plunged into a financial nightmare, not knowing how I was going to pay my bills, feed myself and my daughter, buy the things we needed like clothes and shoes. 

“It turned out to be a mistake on the government’s part. At that time, I was referred to a food bank and I remember sitting in the waiting room with my daughter, waiting to be given a food parcel. I was holding back tears, not wanting my daughter to see me upset, and thinking how has it got to this? Walking home that night I felt like an absolute failure. I was scared. 

“Poverty does not discriminate; it can single you out through no fault of your own, whether through relationship breakdowns, death, loss of employment, change of employment, mental health. I want to portray to people that just because you’re in that situation, it doesn’t mean you have to stay in it. 

“I was determined to get us out of it, and I did. Now, I work part-time from home and work with charities as a lived experience expert. I’m also starting university in September to do a degree in Psychosocial Community Work, and I’m proud to be a single mum to my 8-year-old daughter. 

“We need to get rid of food banks. We need a real living wage and benefits that reflect today’s cost of living. We need more social housing and not at the private rate unaffordable rents that are pushing people out of areas. There are these parallel worlds. London’s fantastic but right under our noses, there’s a whole other world going on.  

This is the thing about communities- it’s about bringing people together and talking and understanding why. Why is this your world and why is this my world? And how can we help one another? How can we change things? It’s communities that can influence change.” 

 

Want to help build a hunger free future? Join our movement now.

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The long read: an unprecedented year leads to record levels of need for food banks

22 Apr

Our series of blogs deep-diving into what’s happening in food banks continues, as Research Manager Tom Weekes delves into today’s new statistics highlighting the record number of emergency food parcels distributed by our network in the last year

Over the last year food banks in the Trussell Trust network have been at the frontline of the national emergency caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. More people than ever have been tipped into financial crisis and a record six million people are currently receiving Universal Credit. Today’s figures from the Trussell Trust show just how precarious people’s finances have been.

In the last year, a record 2.5 million emergency food parcels were distributed to people in crisis by food banks in the Trussell Trust network. A 33% increase on the previous year and a devastating 128% increase on the same period five years ago (2015/16). Without the hard work and dedication of thousands of food bank volunteers and staff, at over a thousand locations across the UK, the impact of the pandemic on hundreds of thousands of people would have been even more severe.

However, at the Trussell Trust we know that the support provided by food banks can only do so much. We must tackle the underlying drivers of need for food banks. Core to the issue is a fundamental lack of income – 94% of people referred to food banks are destitute meaning their income is not sufficient to afford the absolute essentials. This cannot be solved by simply supporting people with emergency food.

Years of exponential growth in need for food banks, and the gradual erosion of financial security for people on the lowest incomes has been brought into stark focus in the last year. We cannot continue like this; this is why we are calling on all levels of government to act and develop a plan to end the need for food banks once and for all.

The last year shines a light on years of increases in need for food banks.

Our latest figures show that over 2.5 million emergency food parcels were distributed to people in crisis in the last year, with almost one million distributed to children. That is respectively a 33% and 36% on the previous year. However, food banks in the Trussell Trust network have long seen the impact of the building crisis of destitution across the UK. Before the pandemic food banks had reported a 75% increase in same period five years previously (2014/15 to 2019/20). This has now increased further with the most recent figures representing a 128% (total) and 135% (to children) on the same period five years ago.

Number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network by financial year.

 

 

Pandemic hits some groups hardest.

Children and households with children have long been more likely to be supported by food banks than all adults and households without children. Last year was no exception, across 2020/21, despite making up just 20% of the UK population, 39% of parcels went to children aged 0-16. Over the last year the number of parcels distributed to children increased by 36% compared with a 32% increase to adults.

Younger people have been more at risk of needing support from a food bank in the last year than other age groups, which is consistent with the economic impact of the crisis, which has mainly been felt by younger working age people. Close to two in three (62%) of people referred to food banks in June or July were aged 25-44, up from 53% in early 2020, and significantly higher than the UK population (33%).

We also know that people with No Recourse to Public Funds visa conditions have struggled this year if they have lost employment, and therefore have no other financial support to draw on. The proportion of people born outside of Europe referred to foodbanks increased from 7% in early 2020 to 18% in the summer of 2020.

The support food banks in the Trussell Trust network provide is just the tip of the iceberg.

Many other organisations, community groups, and individuals have stepped up to support people during the crisis. Schools have previously provided food to pupils but the scale of this has drastically expanded in the last year. In February 2021 one in five (18%) teachers reported that their school had started a food bank.

Many new food banks have been established in the last year to meet the explosion in need. The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), which represents more than 500 independent food banks across the UK, has identified at least 1,034 independent food banks operating in the UK in addition to food banks in the Trussell Trust network and those run by the Salvation Army and schools. Their latest UK-wide data showed an 110% increase in need for emergency food parcels, when comparing February to November 2020 with the same period in 2019.

What will the next year look like?

As we look to the future there are reasons to be optimistic. The vaccine programme continues apace, and the unlocking of the economy will allow many people to get back to some normality in the coming months. We have seen communities rise to the challenges faced with compassion and care. It has also shown that governments can act decisively to make huge changes to the way we look after each other.

However, we know that there will be tough times ahead. Months of reduced pay have cut down  people’s savings to the bare bones putting them at risk of destitution, and unemployment is set to rise as the furlough scheme is wound down.

Despite a record number of people currently being supported, the short-term changes to the social security system that have protected so many over the last year, including the £20 uplift to Universal Credit that has acted as a lifeline to so many, are set to be withdrawn this autumn.

We cannot allow emergency food to become part of the fabric of our communities. When one person goes hungry, our whole society is weaker. It’s time to build a hunger free future – a more dignified and just society where everyone has enough money for the essentials. Now is the time for action.

All levels of government need to act – that’s why we’re calling on candidates standing in the upcoming May elections across England, Scotland, and Wales to commit to working to end the need for food banks and developing a plan to do so, if elected. The UK Government also need to set out a plan to end the need for food banks including ensuring that our social security system to work for all of those that need it in the coming year and beyond.

We are asking you, the public, to write to your local candidates standing for election on 6 May to ask them to make this pledge and stand for change. Together we can take action now to build a hunger free future.

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We’re calling on all Holyrood candidates to create change

21 Apr

On 6 May, voters in Scotland will elect new Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) for their communities and a new government for Scotland. While ongoing Covid-19 restrictions mean fewer of us will have had aspiring MSPs chapping our doors or leaflets thrown into our hands on the high street, these elections are an important turning point for Scotland.

While the constitution remains top of the political agenda for many, it is a sobering fact that levels of poverty in Scotland are stubbornly high. Right now in Scotland, one in four children are growing up in poverty and we know that, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit, more people than ever have experienced destitution, unable to afford the essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean. We also know that poverty is not inevitable. We can change this.

As Scotland comes out of lockdown, we can do things differently. We have the chance to build a better, brighter future for our communities – one where people are not forced to seek emergency food and where everyone can afford the basics.

So, these elections really do matter. They are an invaluable opportunity to shape the priorities of our future MSPs and to persuade our new government to act to end the need for food banks in Scotland.

Every single one of the 129 new MSPs elected to the Scottish Parliament can use their power and influence to deliver the changes we need to work towards a hunger free future. Our job is to make sure that happens, to ensure this is their top priority.

That is why in these elections, we are calling on all Holyrood candidates to commit to working to end the need for food banks if they are elected and for the newly elected Scottish Government to develop an action plan in the first year of the new parliament to make this happen. We need a plan for change that:

  1. Ensures everyone can afford the basics: People are forced to charities for emergency food when there isn’t enough money for the essentials. MSPs should support a cash-first approach to increase household incomes instead of relying on the distribution of emergency food. This means using the powers of the Scottish Parliament to improve the sufficiency, accessibility, and responsiveness of benefits, in particular the Scottish Welfare Fund, as well as reduce the prevalence of insecure work.
  2. Helps local services work together to ensure people get the right support at the right time: MSPs should commit to ensuring that there is a robust network of local support that prevents a short-term crisis becoming long-term hardship, helping local services work together to provide support which maximises incomes, where food banks become the last resort.
  3. Involves people with direct experience of poverty and local food banks in shaping an action plan to end the need for food banks: MSPs should work with people with direct experience of poverty in their community and work with food banks on how to deliver an ‘exit plan’ for ending the need for emergency food.

We are grateful to everyone who has pledged support for our campaign already, but we still have more to do. And that is why we are asking for your help to contact local candidates and ask them ask them to pledgeto work to end the need for food banks. 

It will only take a couple of minutes but with your support, we can ensure that ending the need for food banks in Scotland is top of the agenda for those lucky enough to be elected to the Scottish Parliament next month. Ask your future MSPs to make the pledge now 

If you have slightly more time and live in the Glasgow area, why not sign up to attend the Glasgow Southside Food bank Hustings on 29 April? Hosted by Glasgow SE and SW food banks, this is your chance to hear directly from Nicola Sturgeon (SNP leader and First Minister of Scotland), Anas Sarwar (Scottish Labour leaderand representatives of the Scottish Liberal Democrats and Scottish Conservatives, about how they will end poverty in Scotland. You can sign up for the election hustings (and submit a question) here  

And finally, if you haven’t already done so, you can make a difference by joining our campaign for a hunger free future 

Together, we can make change happen and end the need for food banks in Scotland. 

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The 2021 elections are a vital opportunity

9 Apr

‘The best laid schemes of mice and men often go awry,’ so they say. Beyond the immediate heartache and suffering caused by the pandemic, it’s also been a year filled with missed family visits, cancelled holidays, and all manner of plans left in tatters.

In these circumstances, you might be forgiven for missing that several important elections were also postponed last year and will now be taking place on 6 May 2021.

These elections matter – their outcomes will help to determine how we build a better future as we look to recover from the pandemic. Crucially, they could help provide a turning point to build a future where we can end the need for food banks.

The stakes are high, and they impact so many of us in different ways. All in all, about 48 million people will be able to vote to elect almost 5,000 to positions of power across Great Britain on 6 May.

The bumper crop of elections taking place on this day include those for the Scottish Parliament and the Senedd in Wales, hugely important elections which will determine the next governments for the two nations for the next four years, with responsibilities covering the likes of health, housing, and education. These are joined by the delayed elections for local authorities across England, as well as for mayors in cities such as London and Greater Manchester.

These elections will have huge consequences for how we all live our lives, and for the services and financial support available for people on the lowest incomes. What’s more, they offer a vital opportunity to win support for measures which will end the need for food banks, and create a society where everyone can afford the essentials.

This matter has never been more urgent or pressing. Since the pandemic hit, more people than ever have been pushed into destitution, unable to afford the essentials that we all need to survive. This has led to unprecedented numbers of people needing emergency food. However, these problems are not new. The Covid-19 pandemic has shone a spotlight on and accelerated many of the issues that communities were already facing. There has been a 71% increase in emergency food parcels provided by the Trussell Trust’s food bank network between 2015/16 and 2019/20. This isn’t right.

From their local community to their nation, each elected representative has the opportunity to use their power and influence to deliver the changes we need to work towards a hunger free future. That is why in these elections we’re calling on all candidates to commit to working to end the need for food banks if they are elected, and for newly elected governments, local authorities, and mayors to develop a plan to do so by:

  • Ensuring everyone can afford the basics.
  • Helping local services work together to ensure people get the right support at the right time.
  • Involving people with direct experience of poverty and local food banks.

It’s quick and easy to contact local candidates – will you ask them to pledge to working to end the need for food banks?

We stand at a crossroads at these elections – do we accept ever-rising levels of destitution and emergency food as an appropriate response to this need? Or do we take this opportunity to ensure all our elected representatives do everything in their power to create a hunger free future, where everyone can afford the essentials?

That is the choice our politicians will have to make over the coming months. But we can all play our part in campaigning for those elected to make this top of their in-tray from Day 1 of their new job. Ask them to make the pledge now.

And you can also make a difference by joining our campaign for a hunger free future. Together, we can make change happen.

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Together for change with the church community

8 Apr

Food banks offer vital support to people across the country, and churches play a crucial part in this work, generously providing venues, volunteers, leadership, donations, and more. We’re so grateful to the church community for all that they do to help people in crisis and build a better future, where no one needs to turn to a food bank to get by.

That’s why, as we come together to build a hunger free future, we’re hosting a series of online Big Church Leaders’ Breakfasts, not only to say thank you to church leaders but also to share our vision for a UK without the need for food banks. Whether your church is already involved or you’re just keen to learn more about our work, this event has something for everyone.

There’ll be an opportunity to hear from Emma Revie, our Chief Executive, time for prayer and reflection, networking, a live Q&A, and input from church leaders and food bank teams.

We’re holding events for England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland in April and June this year, and we’re excited to talk about our vision and what we can achieve together.

Want to know more and register for your free place? Click here now.

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The pandemic and food banks: what’s happened and where do we go next?

1 Apr

Blog by Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust 

There’s something about this time of year that often makes me feel both reflective and hopeful. And this Easter, with the recent anniversary of the UK’s first lockdown, that feels especially heightened. So I wanted to share with you the challenges food banks across the country have faced over the past year, how we’ve responded, and what this means for what we’re doing next.

What were the challenges?

When the pandemic first hit, food banks faced four key challenges:

  1. How to help people access support safely?
  2. How to ensure there would be enough food at food banks so emergency support could be there for anyone struggling to afford the basics?
  3. How to link people who could volunteer safely up with food banks?
  4. How to ensure the public and policy makers were aware of what was happening, and knew what was needed to address the reasons why people didn’t have enough money in the first place?

What did we do?

Food banks have worked tirelessly over the last year to provide crucial support to people on a scale that has never been needed before, and to push for changes that would prevent people needing emergency food in the future. We’ve been supporting food banks in the following ways.

To help connect people with support safely, we:

  • Stepped up the rollout of our e-referral system rapidly, allowing organisations to refer to a food bank in our network without the need for an in-person meeting or paper voucher to be exchanged. In March, only 15% of referrals to food banks were e-referrals. Now, 68% of referrals are e-referral.
  • Set up a free national helpline in partnership with Citizens Advice (England & Wales). In April this helped people access food at a time when many local agencies who refer to food banks were closed and since May it has been staffed by specialist advisors, able to support callers to maximise their income and identify wider advice needs.
  • Provided ongoing support and guidance to our food bank network about the implications of rapidly changing government guidance, and distributed over £2 million of funding to food banks through two special coronavirus grants:
    • Emergency grants – for costs like short-term staffing, warehouse space, protective equipment, food and the transport and delivery of food
    • Recovery grants – for proactive projects that respond to the ongoing impact of the pandemic, eg services that make sure people are getting all of the money they’re entitled to.
  • Supported food banks to deliver emergency food to people: through a mixture of guidance and by building on our relationship with British Gas. More than 1,700 volunteers from British Gas supported most of the food banks in our network in Britain, contributing 58,656 hours to deliver vital food. The equivalent of 4 million meals for people in crisis were delivered by British Gas volunteers.

To help ensure emergency food was there for people, we:

  • Built on our long-standing partnership with Tesco, who generously donated £7.5million worth of food to support food banks during the early stages of the pandemic.
  • Partnered with British Gas, Palletforce, XPO and The Entertainer to get this food to food banks through a distribution network serving England, Wales and Scotland. This team effort across a range of industries played a pivotal part in food banks’ ability to continue supporting people.

To help link volunteers up with food banks, we:

  • Brought forward the launch of our volunteering platform. With around 51% of regular volunteers at food banks in our network over 65 and many people needing to shield, self-isolate or provide child-care, being able to connect new volunteers with food banks needing help was vital. This system helps food banks to easily advertise and recruit to specific volunteer roles, and then manage and communicate with volunteers easily.

To help campaign for long-term change, we:

  • Gathered and shared data on the increasing level of need for food banks throughout the summer and commissioned research from Herriot-Watt University to forecast food bank use in winter 2020/21.
  • Presented evidence to a number of select committees, worked alongside partners across the charity sector, and mobilised supporters across the UK to encourage their MPs to back the policy changes we knew would make a difference. This influencing with partners helped secure £63m during summer and £170m for December-March 2021 for local authorities in England to provide support to people struggling to afford the basics, and the six month extension to the £20 a week increase in universal credit payments. But we know there is much more that must be done to strengthen our social security system, and we’ll be pushing for more change.
  • Worked with a range of media outlets and influencers like Liam Payne and Michael McIntyre to draw attention to food bank use, creating a range of hard-hitting news stories and compelling features to build public understanding of why some people were being left without enough money for the basics.

What next?

The last year has shown just how willing people are to put their compassion into practice, on a scale we had never imagined would be needed.

During the first six months of the pandemic, food banks in our network provided more than 1.2 million emergency parcels to people unable to afford the basics, a 47% increase compared to the same period in 2019. The phenomenal commitment of food bank staff and volunteers, and the incredible support shown by charity partners, churches, corporate partners and the public meant food banks were able to provide emergency support to thousands and thousands of people struggling to afford the very basics.

But the last year has also shown us people’s real desire for longer-term change, for change that addresses the root causes of why so many people are being left without enough money in the first place – people want to show compassion, but they also want to see justice.

With things likely to change in the coming months, as a country we have a decision to make: either we accept food banks as part of our ‘normal’, or we work to create a more dignified, compassionate and just society where all of us have enough money for the essentials.

For me, there’s no question – it can never be normal that any of us need a charity’s help to put food on the table. When one person goes hungry, our whole society is weaker. That’s why throughout this coming year we’ll be working closely with food banks across our network, partners and people like you, to build a hunger free future.

If you want to join the movement for a hunger free future, click here to find out more.

A UK where no one needs emergency food might is ambitious, but the last year has shown us that if we work together, anything is possible. Together, we can create a hunger free future where none of us go hungry because none of us will allow it.

 

 

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