A Trussell Trust foodbank. Photo credit: Newfrontiers via photopin cc

The UK Government has been urged to immediately end the cruel freeze on Child Benefit, as new figures reveal record numbers of hungry families are turning to foodbanks to help put food on the table.

Trussell Trust foodbanks handed out a record 1,332,952 three day emergency food supplies between April 1, 2017 and March 31 this year, 13 per cent higher than the previous twelve months. The latest figures show that families with children make up over half of foodbank users, and were more likely to be in work than households without children who needed similar help.

This new research, published today by the Sheffield Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Sheffield, highlights how 70 per cent of families who turn to foodbanks have dependent children, compared to just 42 per cent in the general UK population.

“There should be no higher priority than ensuring all UK families can afford to put food on the table when their children are hungry.” Emma Revie – Trussell Trust Chief Executive

The average income of working families who needed to use Trussell Trust foodbanks was just £419 per month, less than half of the low-income threshold for the UK and well below the Minimum Income Standard for families (£1050 a month after housing costs).

Related: More than a third of low-income parents skip meals as austerity hits working poor

Over 80% of families with children at foodbanks were classed as severely food insecure, meaning they have skipped meals and gone hungry for sometimes several days at a time.

Photo credit: NEFATRON via photopin cc

Single parents appear to be hardest hit by rising food costs and household bills, being almost two times more likely to use foodbanks compared to others.

A shocking 80 per cent of couple families who have needed emergency food supplies had at least one family member with a health condition or common mental health condition, such as depression and anxiety (40 per cent).

Dr Rachel Loopstra, the lead author of the report and Lecturer in Nutrition at King’s College London, said: “Our findings draw urgent attention to the severe food insecurity and poverty experienced by families with children who are receiving help from foodbanks.

“Low-income families with children have experienced significant reductions in welfare entitlements in recent years, and entitlements will be reduced further for low-income families given changes to Child Tax Credits and the ongoing benefit freeze in the context of rising living costs.

“If financial support is not increased for low-income families with children, it is likely more children and their parents will need to use foodbanks in the years to come. Annual measurement of food insecurity in a national survey is needed to monitor vulnerability to this serious problem among households with children.”

Source: Trussell Trust

The Trussell Trust is calling on the UK Government unfreeze and uprate Child Benefit in line with inflation rates, guarantee that work pays for parents receiving Universal Credit, and ensure access to free school meals for all parents who need them.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust, said: “As a nation we value justice and compassion, particularly for our children. But this research shows families across Britain are locked in poverty, with income so low they are unable even to afford to put food on their children’s plates.

“These findings are particularly concerning when we are braced for further real-terms reductions in the very working age benefits that should be protecting these families and children from poverty and hunger in the first place.

“Our network of foodbanks will continue to ensure food and support is given to families facing hunger right now. But we are also calling on Government to unfreeze working age benefits. There should be no higher priority than ensuring all UK families can afford to put food on the table when their children are hungry.”

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