Britain’s growing hunger crisis: Food banks distribute 1.2mn emergency parcels in 1yr
According to the Trussell Trust, the nation’s largest food bank network, the charity delivered an unprecedented 1.2 million food parcels to impoverished families between 2016 and 2017.
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), however, believes many more could be struggling to feed themselves, with at least 651 independent food banks running across Britain.
“For years we have looked to the Trussell Trust to indicate the scale of food aid in this country but there’s a great deal more to the story. These figures show that the number of food banks in the UK is at least twice the estimated figure,” a statement from the group said.
IFAN research also showed that autonomous food banks currently range from small voluntary groups helping the most vulnerable in their local communities, to larger national charities.
“There are now food banks in almost every community, from the East End of London to the Cotswolds. The spread of food banks maps growing problems of poverty across the UK, but also the growing drive among many thousands of people across the country to try and do something about those problems,” added the network’s chairman, Jon May, from Queen Mary University of London.
The worrying data came after a senior Conservative politician was made to apologize for claiming that food bank users are not “languishing in poverty.”
Speaking at an election debate hosted by the BBC’s Victoria Derbyshire, one-time Justice Minister Dominic Raab suggested that most people receiving food parcels have “a cash flow problem episodically” rather than being in dire need.
“In terms of the foodbank issue, and I’ve studied the Trussell Trust data, what they tend to find is the typical user of food bank is not someone that is languishing in poverty, it is someone who has a cash flow problem episodically,” he argued on Monday.
“No, it’s true. That’s what the Trussell Trust papers say,” he added when the audience mocked him.
His leader, Prime Minister Theresa May, has also found herself wrestling with accusations that Britons are increasingly having to rely on charity food donations.
Interviewed by the BBC’s Andrew Marr in late April, May said there are “many complex reasons” why working people such as nurses are now resorting to food banks.
A spokesman for the Trussell Trust, however, argued that the main causes of food bank usage are delays to benefit payments and low wages.
“Trussell Trust data shows that the main reasons for a food bank referral are delays and changes to benefit payments and low income issues that include people who are struggling with low pay or insecure forms of employment,” he said.
“It is our experience that people living in poverty are more likely to experience a sudden short-term crisis where they are referred for emergency food whilst the underlying causes are addressed.”