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Food banks face 'tsunami of need' as record number of people seek help

Food banks in the Trussell Trust's network have given out 1.3 million emergency food parcels over the last six months - more than ever before

Packages of food are lined along shelves and on the floor in a food bank

Packages of food are lined along shelves and on the floor in a food bank. Image: Trussell Trust

A record 320,000 people have needed help from Trussell Trust food banks over the last six months, with demand outstripping supply for the first time ever.

The charity has been forced to launch an emergency appeal to ensure that food banks can meet the “alarming level” of need across the country. 

A total of 1.3 million food parcels were given out during April to September this year – more than ever before. Almost half a million of these went to children. 

It is a third more than were provided in the same period in 2021, and it’s an increase of more than 50 per cent compared to pre-pandemic levels. 

In the first half of this financial year alone, Trussell Trust food banks provided more parcels than in a full 12-month period five years ago, when 1.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed. 

The charity has said food banks are at “breaking point both physically and mentally” and they are set to face their hardest winter yet. They expect to provide an average of more than 7,000 emergency food parcels a day in the next six months. 

Josie Barlow, food bank manager at Bradford Foodbank, said: “Someone who came to the food bank recently told me that ‘buying milk is a luxury now’. So many people are struggling with bills and food prices.

One in five people referred to a food bank in the Trussell Trust network are from working households, according to the charity. Food banks are supporting an increasing number of people who are working but still can’t afford the essentials – which is leading to food banks having to change their opening times so people can pick up food outside of working hours.

Barlow added: “We have seen a huge increase in people coming to the food bank in the last two months compared to the same period last year and our stock levels are very low for this time of the year.” 

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The Trussell Trust is calling on the government to “act decisively” in next week’s budget. The government’s cost of living payments supplied targeted support to low-income people and correlated with a small dip in the need for food banks, but the charity warns that short-term interventions are not sustainable and cannot solve the long-term problems of people having to rely on food banks. 

Emma Revie, the chief executive of the Trussell Trust, has urged the government to ensure there is a “broad package of support” for people on the lowest incomes by uprating benefits in line with inflation and closing the gap between price rises and incomes this winter.

She said: “Over the last few years, the government has acted to protect people who are struggling, and this action has made a difference. They must now act again: with swift support now to help people through the winter, and with vision for the longer-term to ensure that social security is always enough to weather challenging times.”

Independent food banks are also seeing increased demand. According to the Independent Food Aid Network’s most recent data, 91 per cent of food banks have seen a rise in demand since July this year. 

Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of IFAN, said: “It’s clearer than ever that a food bank response is not the answer and the government must ensure that people can afford food and other essentials through adequate incomes.” 

If you are in a position to donate, you can support the Trussell Trust’s Emergency Appeal Found now by donating vital funds to help the charity supporting food banks this winter.

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