Advertisement
Social Justice

Food banks are already running out of food and say it’s going to get worse

Volunteers are facing a crisis due to the perfect storm of Covid, supply issues and the universal credit cut, says the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN).

Food banks are “running out of options” to support people and have warned the £20 government cut to universal credit could see them unable to offer food parcels altogether.

Food aid centres are already struggling to cope in the wake of Covid given the levels of poverty and have now been impacted by the supply chain crisis.

And staff and volunteers expect another sharp spike in demand in the coming weeks that could far exceed any seen during the pandemic so far. 

It is a “real danger” that some food banks soon won’t be able to provide even small amounts of food as the cost of living crisis grows and food supplies dwindle, The Big Issue has heard.

“The buck cannot stop at the doors of food banks,” said Sabine Goodwin, coordinator for the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN). “Over the years some have said, what if we strike? But they absolutely don’t want to and wouldn’t do that.

“They wonder what the government would do if they weren’t there. It’s not fair for volunteers and food bank teams, who try their best at all times, to be put into that impossible situation.”

Advertisement
Advertisement

IFAN, which represents more than 500 independent food banks across the UK, wrote to the prime minister this week urging him to tackle the root causes of poverty. This can be done by strengthening the country’s welfare system and putting an end to low wages, the letter said, not relying on food aid charities to fill the gap.

The letter came the same week Conservative MP Peter Bottomley described politicians’ salary – worth £81,000 – as “really grim”, triggering a joke public fundraising campaign to help him out that actually diverted funds to food banks.

Low supplies mean a number of independent food banks – which often have fewer resources and less funding than larger projects – have this week been forced to reduce the size of the parcels they distribute, Goodwin said.

Some could be forced into the “unthinkable position” of not even being able to offer reduced parcels to people unable to afford the bare essentials, she added.

“This is never going to be resolved by food,” Goodwin said. 

Food banks are also receiving fewer donations from the public compared to recent months, Goodwin added, and are operating with fewer and fewer volunteers. Those remaining are “exhausted”.

“People are going back to work. That moment of blitz spirit has passed,” she said. “Some food banks might be alright now but the system is so fragile, when the expected surge in demand comes they won’t be prepared.

“This impossible scenario cannot be imposed on charitable food aid providers when the solution is so clear,” she added.

Subscribe to The Big Issue

Support us

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

She said ministers must reinstate the £20 per week to universal credit and working tax credits. The cut, amounting to a £1,040 annual loss for claimants, could push 500,000 people into poverty, anti-poverty charity the Joseph Rowntree Foundation said.

IFAN also wants ministers to increase legacy benefits – claimed mostly by disabled people and which did not receive the same £20 increase during the pandemic – as well as ensure the “social security system is fit for purpose” and “fast track decent wages and job security for all”.

IFAN is working with dozens of local authorities to implement a “cash-first” approach to ending demand for food aid, signposting people struggling to afford food to sources of financial support.

This means distributing leaflets to food bank users as well as campaigning for jobs to pay the real living wage, and for food poverty to be tackled through increased incomes on a national scale.

A government spokesperson said: “The uplift to universal credit was always temporary. It was designed to help claimants through the economic shock and financial disruption of the toughest stages of the pandemic, and it has done so.

Break the cycle of poverty for good
Big Futures is calling on the Government to put in place a plan and policies to break this cycle of poverty for good. We are calling for long-term solutions to meet the biggest issues faced in the UK today – the housing crisis, low wages and the climate crisis. Dealing with these issues will help the UK to protect the environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing of future generations. So that young people and future generations have a fair shot at life. Join us and demand a better future.

“Universal credit will continue to provide vital support for those both in and out of work and it’s right that the government should focus on our plan for jobs, supporting people back into work and supporting those already employed to progress and earn more.”

Read IFAN’s letter to the prime minister here

Advertisement

Every copy counts this Christmas

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.

Recommended for you

Read All
What is a warm bank and why are they needed this winter?
Cost of living crisis

What is a warm bank and why are they needed this winter?

What is fuel poverty? The causes, statistics and solutions in the UK
Cost of living crisis

What is fuel poverty? The causes, statistics and solutions in the UK

Don't Pay UK: Why are people cancelling their energy bills?
Energy bills

Don't Pay UK: Why are people cancelling their energy bills?

Four in five of the children’s homes in England are run for profit – here’s why that is a problem
Child poverty

Four in five of the children’s homes in England are run for profit – here’s why that is a problem

Most Popular

Read All
Here's when and where nurses are going on strike
1.

Here's when and where nurses are going on strike

Pattie Boyd: 'I was with The Beatles and everything was fabulous'
2.

Pattie Boyd: 'I was with The Beatles and everything was fabulous'

Here's when people will get the additional cost of living payment
3.

Here's when people will get the additional cost of living payment

Why do people hate Matt Hancock? Oh, let us count the ways
4.

Why do people hate Matt Hancock? Oh, let us count the ways