The Trussell Trust recently revealed a startling figure; in the 2014-2015 financial year, three days’ worth of food was given out a record number of 1,084,604 times. This is a shocking increase of 19% on the previous year.
What these figures help to reveal is the worrying rise in food poverty in the UK. With 13 million people in the UK living below the poverty line, it is no wonder that food banks have stepped in to help those in need.
How do they Work?
Food banks receive their donations through collections from schools, businesses, churches and individuals. You also regularly see ‘Supermarket Collections’ take place, where shoppers are given a shopping list at the supermarket event, asking them to buy and additional item or two to donate.
Frontline care professionals, including social workers, doctors and health visitors, help to identify those in need and issue them with a voucher to be used at the food bank. This helps to ensure that those who visit the food bank are in genuine need. Vouchers can be taken to a local food bank center for three days’ worth of emergency food.
What the Figures Tell Us
Since 2010 there has been an increase of almost 700% in the number of food banks in the UK, from 56 to 445 in 2015. It’s not only food banks providing assistance; the amount of organizations offering emergency food assistance is thought to be over 1,500.
Last year, The Trussell Trust revealed the primary referral causes to their food banks, for the period of April to September 2014. The results were compiled from a voucher checklist that each person must fill in when using one of the food banks. Nearly half of all the referrals were due to welfare issues, calling for changes in handling welfare from the ‘Feeding Britain’ cross-party enquiry.
When you look at the referrals, the majority was caused by changes or delays to benefit payments. The Trussell Trust had revealed in a previous survey that 83% of food banks had seen a rise in the number of referrals brought on due to benefit sanctions, many of which seemed to be received unfairly.
“We’d like a more careful and thoughtful approach to sanctions to make sure that people are not sanctioned unnecessarily or carelessly”
Foodbank Director for The Trussell Trust Adam Curtis
Feeding Britain seems to agree, with their findings criticizing the issuing of benefit sanctions, which can at times be heavy-handed. The suggestion is to improve upon the system in order to better differentiate between those who simply misunderstand the complex system and those who willfully disregard it.
Who Are The Food Bank Users?
Let’s find out a little bit more about who is using the food banks in the UK:
It is not just referrals that are causing the rise in visits to food banks. When you look at the referral figures, the second largest, at 22%, is from those on low income. We have written before about the concerns related to the economic recovery and number of people back in employment and what these figures truly reveal. It appears we are still waiting to see the benefits of the economic recovery.
Despite being in full or partial employment, people are still struggling to buy food. The issue is that incomes for the poorest people in the economy have not been increasing in line with inflation, with 1.5 million more in jobs paying less than the living wage. That means that even a small change to their circumstances can lead them into a crisis situation where they cannot afford to buy food.
How You Can Help
The Trussell Trust help hundreds of thousands of people in crisis in the UK. With an alarming number of those living below the poverty line, we must band together and help those who need it the most. Donate to your local food bank and help those who are badly in need of food. Together, we can help stop UK hunger.