Record numbers of people, including growing numbers of people in work, have been accessing food banks in the last 12 months, according to the Trussell Trust charity.
It says over 1,000,000 people have received at least three days’ emergency food from the charity’s foodbanks in the last twelve months, more than in any previous year.
The figures show 1,084,604 people – including 396,997 children – received three days’ food from the Trussell Trust’s network of over 400 foodbanks in 2014/15, compared with 913,138 in the 2013/14 financial year. This is an increase of 19 percent.
The Trust says that, whilst problems with benefits remain the largest driver of foodbank use, there has been an increase in numbers referred due to low income in the last year. ‘Low income’ referrals have grown from 20 percent in 2013/14 to 22 percent of all referrals in 2014/15.
Foodbank managers reported that clients who are in work are struggling with insecure work, low wages and high living costs. Benefit delays and changes have proportionately decreased from 48% to 44%. Referrals to foodbanks due to sickness, homelessness, delayed wages and unemployment have increased slightly.
In a recent survey, foodbanks reported that the most significant factors in driving demand were: low income, administrative delays in paying social security benefits, benefits sanctions and debt.
The Trust cites the case of teacher and mother-of-two, Susan, who says: ‘I have an 18-month-old son and an eight-year-old stepson, I work part time as a teacher and my husband has an insecure agency contract. There are times when he doesn’t get enough hours of work, and we really struggle to afford food and pay the bills. The foodbank meant we could put food on the table.’
Trussell Trust UK foodbank director Adrian Curtis says: “Despite welcome signs of economic recovery, hunger continues to affect significant numbers of men, women and children in the UK today. It’s difficult to be sure of the full extent of the problem as Trussell Trust figures don’t include people who are helped by other food charities or those who feel too ashamed to seek help.”
For instance, they say a mum at a children’s holiday lunch club told Trussell Trust workers that she was skipping meals to feed her children but couldn’t bring herself go to a foodbank. She said: ‘”There are people out there more desperate than me. I’ve got a sofa to sell before I’ll go to the food bank. It’s a pride thing. You don’t want people to know you’re on benefits.”
Dr John Middleton, Vice President of Faculty of Public Health, says: “The rising number of families and individuals who cannot afford to buy sufficient food is a public health issue that we must not ignore. For many people, it is not a question of eating well and eating healthily, it is a question of not being able to afford to eat at all. UK poverty is already creating massive health issues for people today, and if we do not tackle the root causes of food poverty now we will see it affecting future generations too. The increased burden of managing people’s health will only increase if we do not address the drivers of people to food banks.”