Food banks reaching breaking point as they struggle to keep up with 'relentless' demand

volunteers working at a foodbank in Earlsfield, south London
Volunteers working at a food bank in Earlsfield, south London. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

Food banks have said they are struggling to keep up with the “relentless” demand across the UK with many reaching breaking point, as families struggle through the cost of living crisis.

Providers said they are “deeply concerned about the scale of suffering” and have called on the prime minister and the chancellor to act urgently to combat “rapidly rising levels of poverty, destitution and hunger”, according to the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN).

A group of more than 550 independent food banks said people are struggling as the price of food, energy and other essentials rise, while those on benefits are seeing a real-terms cut as inflation outstrips payments.

It said exhausted and overstretched food bank teams “could well be unable to continue to pick up the pieces”.

Carlisle's food bank is one of many that's been inundated with requests Credit: ITV Border

Kathy Bland, from Leominster food bank in Herefordshire, said the situation was worse than it had been at the start of the coronavirus pandemic when they faced “unprecedented” demand.

She said the crisis "will spiral out of control if this letter is not taken seriously".

“We are volunteers and cannot meet the levels of need we are seeing.

“A bag of food is not sufficient – people need benefits to be enough to be able to live on and to offer their children a basic standard of living.”

In a letter to Boris Johnson and Rishi Sunak, the network said: “We are writing to urge you to take immediate action to reduce the rapidly rising levels of poverty, destitution and hunger in our communities.

The group of more than 550 independent food banks has called on the government to act urgently to combat rapidly rising levels of poverty. Credit: PA

“We are deeply concerned about the scale of suffering that we are already witnessing as well as our capacity to prevent people from going hungry in the weeks and months to come.

“An emergency supply of food cannot resolve someone’s financial crisis and will only act as a temporary sticking plaster.

“Measures must be urgently introduced to decisively increase people’s incomes through the social security system, emergency cash first support and wage increases combined with job security.”

The letter continues: “What’s more, people who used to donate to food banks are now needing to access help themselves.

“Our members are struggling to find the resources to provide adequate food parcels as the scale of demand and food and energy price increases impact on the services they run.”

The Trussell Trust said it is “deeply concerned” about the real-terms cut in benefits and the Government must stop the cost-of-living crisis “turning into a national emergency”.

Chief executive Emma Revie said: “By failing to make benefits realistic for the times we face and bring these in line with inflation, the government now risks pushing hundreds of thousands more people through the doors of food banks over the coming months, and beyond. This is not right.

“For people most at risk from soaring living costs – who cannot work or work longer hours due to disability, caring responsibilities or mental health issues – there is very little protection ahead and many will now be pushed beyond breaking point.”