Foodbank handouts double as more families end up on the breadline
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Britain's leading foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, says every single day it is handing out emergency food parcels to parents who are going without meals in order to feed their children, or even considering stealing food to put on the table, as the government's austerity measures start to bite.
The number of people to whom it had issued emergency food parcels had doubled in the last 12 months and was set to increase further as rising living costs, shrinking incomes and welfare cuts take their toll, the trust said, as it published its annual report, which is fast becoming a barometer of social deprivation.
Two foodbanks a week opened up in the UK over the last 12 months to meet an explosion in demand from families living on the breadline, the trust said. The charity currently oversees 201 foodbanks run on a franchise basis across the UK, up from 100 in 2010-11.
It fed 128,000 people last year, distributing 1,225 tonnes of food donated by the public, schools and businesses, and estimates that half a million individuals a year will be in receipt of a food parcel by 2016.
'Foodbanks are seeing people from all walks of life turning to us for help when they hit crisis,' said Chris Mould, the executive chair of the Trussell Trust.
'The current economic situation means that times are tough for many. Every day we meet parents who are skipping meals to feed their children or even considering stealing to stop their children going to bed hungry.
'It is shocking that there is such a great need for foodbanks in 21st century Britain, but the need is growing.'
Foodbank parcels contain enough non-perishable food to last the recipient a minimum of three days. Each box – there are two sizes, for families and individuals – typically contains pasta, rice, tinned vegetables, fruit and fish, longlife juice and milk. Clients can receive a maximum of three boxes before they are referred on to Citizen's Advice or other aid agencies.
Typically, those presenting with vouchers at foodbanks – all are referred by health professionals, social workers, Jobcentre advisers or local charities – are not homeless or destitute but working families struggling on low incomes, or on benefits, said Mould.
'Five years ago debt was the issue. Now it is benefit delays and delays in getting crisis loans. There are serious inefficiencies in the welfare system,' he said.
In previous years, the vast majority of foodbank customers came just once, to help them over a temporary crisis, said Mould, but the charity was now seeing more repeat customers. 'If you are on a low income and you are dealing with a deterioration in that as a result of higher food prices, higher rents and falling wages, you are going to get more people who just cannot hold it together.'
Gavin Kibble, the project manager at Coventry foodbank, which fed 7,500 people in 2010-11, its first year of operation, described the foodbank as a 'barometer of the state of the nation'.
He added: 'I think we have got a kind of perfect storm of social circumstances at the moment. Individually, they would not be so much of a problem but together they are causing a lot of hardship to a lot of people.'