Many more people closer to using food banks than thought

Some people's finances can be sent off-course by one unforeseen bill, food bank users told ITV News. Photo:

Our food bank survey is the first of its kind, tracking dozens of independent services which provide a lifeline of meals for thousands.

The figures, which you can read on this website, tell a story of 21st century Britain that is rarely seen.

The statistics we have been given by the food banks can only ever tell a small part of the story, there is also the human and emotional.

One mum told me of the mental torture of having no food for her child, of being unable to think properly as a sort of nightmarish panic set in.

A father told me how the prospect of hunger can lead some to crime.

Often I heard about the fear that sets in when families feel so helpless that they can no long feed themselves.

Independent food banks are seeing an increase in users. Credit: Julien Behal/PA Wire/

The number of families using food banks is up and there are predictions that demand has not yet reached its peak.

The reasons that push people towards the food banks are many and varied - but nobody we have spoken to during our research believes that most recipients are anything other than genuine.

There remains, for many, a stigma about taking food handouts - and that means only a strikingly tiny number of individuals make false claims on these food services.

Throughout our research I met users, volunteers and even food donors.

What emerges is a picture of people who have fallen through the usual social safety nets.

They are often caught between benefit claims - hit with unexpected outgoings or stranded without the usual support of families and friends.

But increasingly these are not the people you might expect to hit such troubles.

Some people's finances can be sent off-course by one unforeseen bill, food bank users say. Credit: PA Wire

I met an unemployed marketing manager at a food bank in Macclesfield - his qualifications, experience and background were no barriers against being caught with so little money that his kitchen cupboards were empty.

The organiser of the Macclesfield service that he was using says she is seeing more and more "middle class" users.

Most people have incomes which have not grown much (if at all) while many household bills have inched ever upwards.

All that is needed to elbow many families off-course is an unforeseen bill, some extra unavoidable expenditure that means they are left facing the prospect of going without food.

It seems likely to me that very many thousands may be much closer than we thought to the food banks.

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