It’s a headline we’ve all grown used to seeing.
Once again, the worst kind of record has been broken: More emergency food packages than ever before were given out by food banks in the UK over the last year.
It’s the fifth consecutive year that the numbers have increased. Over that period, it’s blown up by 73%.
The Trussell Trust — the UK’s largest network of food banks — released the damning figures on Thursday.
A decade ago there were 41,000 emergency three-day food packages delivered over the course of a year. But between April 2018 and March 19 of this year, that has grown to 1.6 million — enough to feed the populations of Cardiff, Edinburgh, and Sheffield put together, according to the Trust.
From that 1,583,668 million food packages, 577,618 were given to children.
Today’s figures show that 2018-19 was the busiest year for #foodbanks in our network since we first opened. Of the 1.6m food parcels handed out to people unable to afford the basics, 550,000+ of these went to children. We know #ThisCanChange. More here > https://t.co/RpoXA4fTCrpic.twitter.com/lctNa5OcU5— The Trussell Trust (@TrussellTrust) April 25, 2019
More than 8 million people in Britain struggle to put food on the table, according to the Food Foundation.
Despite expert opinions within the sector, Amber Rudd, the government’s work and pensions secretary, has previously claimed that increased food bank use is “absolutely not” connected to
the five-week wait for universal credit payments — the controversial system that rolls a number of welfare benefits into one.
But Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, fought back against that view, arguing that the wait means people cannot afford the basics of day-to-day life.
“What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food,” Revie said. “This is not right.”
“Enough is enough. We know this situation can be fixed — that’s why we’re campaigning to create a future where no one needs a food bank,” she said. “Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty.”
Revie insisted that universal credit needed reform, and that delays should be scrapped. The Trust has revealed that a fifth of all food bank referrals are due to a delay in benefits payments — half of which were related to universal credit.
“Ultimately, it’s unacceptable that anyone should have to use a food bank in the first place,” she added. “No charity can replace the dignity of having financial security.”
Our #foodbank figures only show the tip of the iceberg but here’s how many emergency food parcels were handed out across the UK last year. We know #ThisCanChange – find out how here > https://t.co/RpoXA4fTCrpic.twitter.com/FCCqyIuE0u— The Trussell Trust (@TrussellTrust) April 25, 2019
The problem is likely even worse than these figures suggest.
The Trussell Trust don’t actually operate every single food bank in Britain. While it supports 428 banks across more than 1,200 centres, that doesn’t include at least 805 other food banks throughout the country that work independently.
In Scotland, for example, a recent study from the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) found that while 258,606 parcels were counted by the Trussell Trust between April 2017 and September 2018, there were an additional 221,977 given out by independent food banks in the same period.
So while a record 1.6 million food packages were delivered by the Trust, it’s likely that the true total number is even higher.
Sabine Goodwin, IFAN's coordinator, told the Guardian: “These shocking statistics from the Trussell Trust must result in drastic changes that will see the repair of a broken benefits system and the payment of adequate wages.”