Urgent action is needed to significantly reduce the need for charitable food aid provision and protect people from poverty, independent foodbanks have warned today (Friday).
From February to April 2020 the number of people turning to independent foodbanks for emergency food parcels soared by a shocking 120%, with independent food banks reporting a 62% increase in emergency food parcel distribution when comparing October 2020 to the same month the previous year.
New figures published by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) reveal that 134 independent food banks distributed a total of 426,958 emergency
food parcels between February and October 2020 compared to 226,605
emergency food parcels in the same period last year – a rise of 88%.
However, IFAN says this is just the tip of the iceberg and are calling on the UK Government to boost benefit payments to prevent poverty and hunger from becoming systemic in modern Britain.
Anne McCormack, who runs the Broke Not Broken independent foodbank in, Perth and Kinross, said: “In October this year we distributed 103 parcels compared with 33 the year before, November has seen a huge rise in food bank use. 305 parcels were distributed compared with only 19 the year before.
“More families are coming forward, we are seeing more redundancies affecting families who were precariously balancing their finances every month.
“Food bank parcels, whilst certainly useful, are not helping the
longer-term issues people are facing. They need real financial help.”
IFAN adds that whilst the Government’s recent pledge of over £400 million to help support families and individuals unable to afford to buy food is welcome, which includes £170 million for local authorities, is welcome news only positive changes to the failing social security system and higher wages can end the need for foodbanks for good.
They explain: “The provision of yet more emergency food parcels will not solve poverty and a charitable food aid system is being further embedded with every week that passes.
“We urge the Government to look beyond an emergency response to the systemic problem of poverty that pre-existed the Covid-19 crisis and to make changes to our social security system and to our economy that will mean everyone is able to afford to buy food.”
IFAN is calling on the Government to make the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent and extend it to legacy benefits.
They are also calling for the removal of the benefit cap, an end to the 5-week wait for Universal Credit, an end to the two-child benefit limit, the scrapping of the cruel benefit sanctions regime, and abolision of the ‘No Recourse to Public Funds’ status for immigrants.
Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network said: “Independent food banks are picking up the pieces yet again as more and more people struggle to pay the bills.
“There needs to be a realisation that we cannot continue to provide an emergency response to a long-term crisis.
“The Government’s £170 million funding has huge potential to support people through a ‘cash first’ approach and the provision of cash payments by local authorities instead of food bank referrals.
“But ultimately it’s the social security system and the payment of
adequate wages that need our attention to end food poverty for good.”
Dr Maddy Power, Co-Chair IFAN’s Board of Trustees said: “The impacts of Covid-19 have been profoundly unequal and nowhere has this been more apparent than in the sharp increases in poverty and hunger caused by the
economic fallout of the pandemic.
“No one should have to use a food bank but at present the welfare system creates rather than prevents poverty.
“Without significant government action to improve incomes we will become a country in which millions of people are permanently reliant on an already stretched charitable food system for survival.”