Emma Revie, chief executive
In ‘normal’ times, Ruth* works every hour under the sun in catering for an events company to provide for her family. But in mid-March, before the coronavirus pandemic had reached its peak in the UK, she found herself at a food bank collecting an emergency food parcel.
She was already just getting by from one payslip to the next – but when all the events company’s bookings were cancelled and she lost her shifts, it was impossible to make ends meet.
It isn’t right that Ruth was forced to use a food bank to get by. It isn’t right that anyone in our country is forced to use a food bank to get by. Each one of us deserves the dignity of having enough money to buy the essentials we need for ourselves and our families.
But this week, food banks across the UK have reported their busiest month ever as thousands of women, men and children find themselves in or on the brink of destitution, forced to seek emergency food to survive. Compared to April last year, food banks in the Trussell Trust network saw a staggering 89% increase in need, including a 107% increase in the number of children receiving emergency food parcels.
We all agree this must change. But how?
During the last few months we’ve heard lots of suggestions that focus on getting food to people who can’t afford it. But food isn’t the answer to people needing food banks. Food can’t be used to cover the cost of heating, lighting, rent or mortgages, and food won’t help a family buy school shoes, period products or bus tickets.
If we want to end the need for food banks, we need to focus on getting money into people’s pockets.
We welcome the government’s decision to put in place the Job Retention Scheme and the Self-Employed Income Support Scheme, and measures like the increase in Universal Credit payments. That scale of intervention has held many people from falling into destitution.
But the unparalleled speed and scale of the increase in people needing food banks shows these interventions don’t offer enough protection to everyone who needs support. Instead, they’ve shone a light on how fragile people’s safety nets are.
That’s why as part of a coalition of charities, including the Independent Food Aid Network, Child Poverty Action Group, The Children’s Society, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, StepChange and Turn2us, we’re calling on the government to do more and create a temporary Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme, which will ensure everyone has enough money for the essentials.
If we want to protect more people like Ruth from needing a food bank as the economic impacts of coronavirus unfold, we must act with urgency. Each and every one of us must be treated with dignity and compassion. And none of us should left behind.
We know things are uncertain but with your support, our government could make a real difference to the lives of people needlessly swept into poverty throughout this crisis.
Email your MP to ask them to back our calls and together we can make a difference.
We believe that if we act together, #ThisCanChange – do you?
The post Food isn’t the answer to people needing food banks appeared first on The Trussell Trust.
- The Trussell Trust reports a soaring 89% increase in need for emergency food parcels during April 2020 compared to the same month last year, including a 107% rise in parcels given to children
- The number of families with children receiving parcels has almost doubled compared to the same period last year
- Food banks in the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) report a 175% increase in need for the same period
- A coalition of charities, including Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), The Children’s Society, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), StepChange and Turn2us, is calling for funding for local authorities in England to ensure grants are quickly distributed to help people stay afloat as part of a temporary Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme
As the impact of coronavirus continues to unfold, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network are reporting their busiest month ever, with an 89% increase in emergency food parcels given to people across the UK in April 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.
The figures include a 107% increase in parcels going to children compared to last year. The number of families with children receiving parcels has almost doubled compared to the same period last year.* Independent food banks are seeing similar increases, with IFAN reporting a 175% increase in need for emergency food parcels given out in the UK during April 2020 compared to the same month last year. **
A coalition of charities, including the Trussell Trust, IFAN, Child Poverty Action Group (CPAG), Children’s Society, Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF), StepChange and Turn2us, is urging the government to act quickly in providing a stronger lifeline to people to prevent many from being swept into destitution.
Measures brought in by the government, including the Coronavirus Jobs Retention scheme, the Self-Employment Income Support Scheme and changes aimed specifically at people on low incomes, have helped some people stay afloat. But these new figures warn far more people are needing food banks’ help than this time last year, with little sign of slowing. With these schemes set to wind down over the coming months and other measures proving to be insufficient, the charities say further action is urgently needed to ensure no one is left behind during this crisis.
The coalition says a first step should be to make sure local authorities in England have enough funding to provide emergency cash grants so money can be put directly into people’s pockets quickly. An increase in funding to local authorities in England would help bring the government response on this type of support closer to that of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.
This is one part of a temporary Coronavirus Emergency Income Support Scheme proposed by the coalition to ensure everyone has enough money in their pockets for essentials during this crisis. The scheme would include:
- Increasing benefits that go to families to help with the costs of raising children
- Extending the suspension of benefit deductions to include advance payments – the loans offered to cover the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment
- Lifting the benefit cap to ensure this support scheme benefits everyone
Chief executive of the Trussell Trust Emma Revie says:
“We have been seeing rises in food bank need for the past five years but this 89% increase – with the number of families coming to food banks doubling – is completely unprecedented and not right. People need to be able to put food on their table. The government must put urgent support in place to ensure people already struggling to keep their heads above water can stay afloat. We have outlined what we need our government to do – it’s in our power to protect one another, we’ve seen it during this health crisis, and we need it to continue during this economic one.”
Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network Sabine Goodwin says:
“Our food bank figures paint a grim picture of what is unfolding across the UK and the numbers of people having to resort to emergency food parcels to survive. But the solution to the escalating food insecurity crisis has never been the provision of charitable food aid. Everyone needs to be able to afford to buy food and the bare essentials. Our joint call details how this can start to be achieved and we urge the Government to act swiftly and decisively to reverse this devastating trend.”
Child Poverty Action Group ‘s chief executive Alison Garnham says:
“Today’s figures are grim. No parent wants to depend on charity to feed their own child but it is clear that food banks are becoming the only option for a growing number of families whose finances have all but collapsed because of Covid-19. Struggle is turning to real hardship. The Government has quickly put in place unprecedented and very welcome schemes to support family finances in the wake of Covid-19, but too many households are falling through the gaps. An uplift in children’s benefits should be the priority now to shield children from poverty and its lifelong effects.”
Chief executive at The Children’s Society Mark Russell says:
“It’s a tragedy that double the number of families are having to rely on food banks to feed their children, and a situation which could be prevented with more action to stop children from going hungry.
“The Children’s Society wants to see significant extra investment in local welfare assistance so councils can provide much needed emergency support. We recently found more than half of councils (63%) were forced to reduce spending on these schemes between 2015 and 2019 yet more people than ever need the help they can provide.
“No child should face destitution as a result of this pandemic. The Government must step up and protect vulnerable children and families.”
Policy and partnerships manager at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation JRF Iain Porter says:
“It’s just not right that the number of families turning to food banks continues to climb so steeply. We all want to help each other weather this storm, but these figures show the government support provided so far is still not providing a lifeline to families in crisis who are not able to afford the essentials.
“As a rapid first step, increasing funding to councils for emergency cash grants would provide a lifeline to those most at risk of hardship. Alongside this, we need emergency investment in the social security system, such as targeted benefits to families with children, to prevent more families from reaching crisis point as we continue to weather the storm.”
Welfare benefit expert at Turn2us Anna Stevenson says:
“Food banks do a fantastic job getting immediate practical support to people in their communities, however it shouldn’t be left to charities to do the job our social security safety net should be doing.
“The coronavirus has affected so many of us financially, this must be the catalyst for the government to build upon the steps it has already taken to make sure everyone can afford to put food on the table and not just survive, but be able to thrive.”
Contact the Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or email@example.com
Contact the Independent Food Aid Network at 07971-010-991 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to editors
- There has been an 89% increase in emergency food parcels distributed from food banks, including a 107% rise in parcels given to children. There has been a 95% increase in the number of parcels going to families with children.
- The figures are based on data provided by 351 of the 425 food bank charities in the Trussell Trust network. These food banks represent 82% of those in the network and, in normal times, they feed 82% of those who need a Trussell Trust food bank.
- The food banks have not been weighted to be demographically or geographically representative, but at least 80% of the food banks from each nation are included.
- Comparisons are made between weeks 14-18 2019 (1 April – 5 May) and weeks 14-18 2020 (30 March – 3 May)
- The figures are significantly above the normal year on year increases we generally see across the network. Our latest yearly increase data from April 2018 – March 2019 showed a 19% increase: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/
- 48% of the increase in emergency food distributed from food banks is due to people reporting a fall in income from work or benefits. 11% is because of sickness.
- April 2020 data was collected up until 5pm 22nd May 2020. The 351 food banks included in the analysis are those who were able to confirm data completion by this date.
- County level breakdowns of this data are not available but figures for England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales are available on request.
- More information on the data here.
- **IFAN reports a 175% increase for emergency food parcels from independent food banks in its network.
- The figures are based on data provided by 112 organisations running 213 independent food banks.
- Comparisons have been made with figures collated from April 2019 and April 2020.
- Further data is available covering February and March 2019 and February and March 2020.
- Differences between IFAN and Trussell Trust figures may be because of different referral mechanisms, increases in the size of parcels distributed, the size of the data sets analysed and the different areas that the networks cover.
- Further information and a full report is available by contacting Sabine Goodwin at IFAN.
About the Trussell Trust:
- We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.
- We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.
- Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/
- The Trussell Trust’s food bank network brings together volunteers, staff and supporters of all faiths and none to make a difference. Local churches play a vital part in this work, with around 12,000 churches actively involved in donating food, and providing venues, volunteers and financial support for food banks.
- You can read more about our work at www.trusselltrust.org
About the Independent Food Aid Network:
- The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) connects, supports and advocates on behalf of a range of over 300 independent frontline food aid organisations. Its membership includes 259 organisations operating 346 independent food banks regularly distributing emergency food parcels at least once a week. IFAN’s vision is of a country which doesn’t need emergency food aid and in which good food is accessible to all.
- IFAN has been responsible for identifying at least 859 independent food banks operating across the UK. We know as a result that at least 40% of UK food banks operate independently of the Trussell Trust’s network of over 1,200 food banks. In March 2019 and January 2020, IFAN published food parcel distribution figures alongside A Menu for Change collated from independent food banks in Scotland almost doubling Trussell Trust figures. In December 2019, IFAN published the first report of a study led by Dr Rachel Loopstra on independent food banks operating outside of the Trussell Trust network in England.