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Food banks are helping hundreds of thousands of UK children to survive, data shows

New research from the Trussell Trust has revealed that food banks are handing out more emergency food parcels than ever before

food banks

A food bank in Earlsfield, South London. Image: Big Issue

More than 265,000 children needed food banks to survive between April and September this year, new research from the UK’s largest network of food banks has revealed.

The Trussell Trust distributed 1.5 million emergency food parcels during this six-month period, more than ever before over the summer months. One in three of these parcels were provided to children.

“These statistics are extremely alarming,” Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said. “An increasing number of children are growing up in families facing hunger, forced to turn to food banks to survive. A generation is growing up believing that it’s normal to see a food bank in every community. This is not right.

“Rising hunger and hardship have devastating consequences for individuals and our communities, damage the nation’s health and hold back our economy. People in work, as well as people who cannot work, are increasingly being pushed into debt and forced to turn to a food bank to survive.”

Low incomes, especially from debt, health conditions and issues with benefits such as delays or sanctions were the main reasons people were left with no option but to turn to a food bank for help.

The Trussell Trust believes that the situation is unlikely to change in the coming months, forecasting that food banks in its network will distribute more than a million emergency food parcels between December 2023 and February 2024 – the equivalent of providing a parcel every eight seconds this winter. 

These figures do not include the more than 1,000 independent food banks across the country. The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) found that 84% saw increased need between April and July 2023 in comparison to last year.

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Jess Holliday, deputy chief executive at the Trussell Trust’s Eastbourne Foodbank, said: “Our donations are down even as need remains very high. We are deeply concerned about the alarming rise in the number of children needing our support.

“Last month, 633 of the food parcels we provided were for children. Day after day, people tell us they simply don’t have enough money to buy the basics. A client told me, ‘I have sold my car. I have sold everything and cut everything out. But that’s still not enough. All I want is enough money to pay the basic bills and have some left to buy my own food.'”

The Trussell Trust is encouraging people to sign a petition urging UK party leaders to support the introduction of an ‘essentials guarantee’ to ensure that the basic rate of universal credit at least covers the basics people need to live.

Revie added: “The UK government must build on its work to protect people from increasingly severe hardship and commit to putting an ‘essentials guarantee’ into legislation, to embed in our social security system the widely supported principle that, at a minimum, universal credit should protect people from going without essentials.

“We recognise this change cannot happen overnight, which is why we are also calling on the government to urgently confirm in the Autumn Statement that benefits will rise in line with inflation next April, and to reduce the burden of debt deductions which drive unacceptable levels of hardship.”

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