Social Justice

Food banks warn Liz Truss they're at 'breaking point' in open letter delivered to Downing Street

The letter urged the government to take “action to end the need for charitable food aid by ensuring everyone has enough income, from work and social security, to buy the essentials”

representatives of food banks outside downing street

Representatives of food banks outside Downing Street. Left to right: Jen Coleman (Black Country Foodbank), Steph Maxwell (Uttlesford Foodbank), Nik Chapman (Charles Burrell Centre), Rajesh Makwana (Sufra), Flora Schweighofer (Southwark Foodbank). Image: Jess Hurd

Thousands of food bank workers and volunteers have signed an open letter to Liz Truss calling for urgent help as they face “breaking point”. 

It was delivered to the prime minister on Monday by representatives from the Trussell Trust, Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) and Feeding Britain. 

The letter warned that food banks are “struggling to cope” as demand outstrips donations. “We are overstretched and exhausted. Many of our organisations are at breaking point,” it reads. 

It was signed by more than 3,000 volunteers and staff working with food banks, food pantries, food clubs, soup kitchens and community kitchens across the UK. 

They urged the government to take “action to end the need for charitable food aid by ensuring everyone has enough income, from work and social security, to buy the essentials”. 

Food bank workers said they regularly meet people who are skipping meals so they can feed their children and others who can’t afford to turn on their fridges or ovens. 

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People who used to donate to food banks now need support themselves, and the letter warned the next 12 months are set to look bleaker still. 

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, urged the government to “ensure our social security system protects people from destitution”. 

She said: “For a start, this means keeping its commitment to raise benefit payments in line with at least the September rate of inflation to help prevent more people from needing to use a food bank.”

Sabine Goodwin, the coordinator of IFAN, agreed that the government should “first and foremost immediately uprate benefit payments in line with inflation”. She reiterated that charitable food aid providers are united in seeking to reduce the need for their services.

According to IFAN’s most recent data, 91 per cent of food banks have seen a rise in demand since July this year. Food bank use was already at record levels after the removal of the £20 uplift to universal credit last October. 

Rajesh Makwana, the director at Sufra in north-west London, which is part of IFAN, said: “Demand at our food bank is at unsustainable levels. We don’t have the volunteers, the space, or the income we need to do this at the scale we’re seeing.”

It comes as the new chancellor Jeremy Hunt announces he is scrapping Liz Truss’s two-year freeze to the energy price cap. It will now only be in place until April, prompting campaigners to amp up the urgency of their calls for uprating benefits. 

Andrew Forsey, director of Feeding Britain, added: ““The idea of cutting poorer people’s incomes yet again, when food banks and food clubs are already running out of food due to record levels of demand, needs to be consigned to the dustbin. 

“Justice demands that their incomes are fully protected against a backdrop of rising food, energy, and housing costs.”

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