More than 900,000 adults and children received emergency food parcels from the charity Trussell Trust in the last 12 months, new figures show.
The shocking figure represents a 163% rise on the previous year and Trussell Trust say more people are being referred to the charity than ever before.
913,138 people received three days’ emergency food from Trussell Trust foodbanks in 2013-14, compared to 346,992 in 2012-13. This is just the “tip of the iceberg” of food poverty in the UK, says the Trussell Trust chairman, because the figure only accounts for Trussell Trust food banks.
Low-income households and benefit claimants have seen their income squeezed under the Tory-led coalition government, by lower than inflation wage rises and devastating welfare cuts.
A new report from the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) warns there could be 300,000 more people living in “absolute poverty” than previously thought, mainly caused by rising food and energy prices.
According to the Trussell Trust, the primary reason given by users for requiring food aid is harsh and draconian benefit sanctions or payment delays, closely followed by low wages and benefit changes. 83% of Trussell Trust food banks have reported an increase in demand due to “sanctioning”.
Trussell Trust say they are increasingly working with partners and agencies to provide welfare advice and budgeting advice to families hit by welfare cuts, or poverty wages. The charity is also providing essentials like washing powder, nappies and hygiene products to families in crisis.
The Trussell Trust’s Chairman, Chris Mould, said:
“That 900,000 people have received three days’ food from a foodbank, close to triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain. But perhaps most worrying of all this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no foodbank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
“In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.
“A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger.”
While there has been a 163% increase in food bank use, the number of new food banks opened by the Trussell Trust increased by 45% in the last year. Trussell Trust argues that this reinforces evidence that ‘increased food bank use is not a question of supply’, as suggested by some government ministers.
Oxfam’s Head of UK Poverty Programme, Rachael Orr said: “The fact that the number of people forced to turn to food banks has doubled in the last year and the situation is worsening for people in poverty is deeply worrying.
“Foodbanks and the thousands of people who support them are doing an impressive job in helping stop people from going hungry, but the truth is that in a country as rich as the UK there should not be food poverty at all. The Government needs to provide adequate support to the poorest in society and urgently tackle the low incomes and rising bills that are leaving people hungry.”