'People could die': Fears independent food banks won't be able to meet demand this winter
Eight in ten independent food banks have been hit with supply issues, figures shared exclusively with ITV News have revealed.
The cost-of-living crisis means that independent food bank teams are struggling to source enough food, after significant falls in food and financial donations.
New research from the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) shows that 91% of food banks have seen an increase in demand since July, and one in four have reduced the size of food parcels to make ends meet.
A total 64% of organisations struggling with supply issues reported a drop in food donations, while more than half have dipped into financial reserves.
As winter sets in, around half of the organisations questioned fear they might not be able to support everyone who needs their help.
In a stark call for help, independent food bank workers have warned that "people could die" if action isn't taken to support vulnerable families.
Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network said: “Our survey shows what an impossible and untenable position our food bank teams are being put in. What they are reporting is a deep and serious concern about the winter to come.
"People could die" - Charlie Taylor, from the Welcome Centre, is worried that some food banks might have to turn people away
"We urge the Government to act now, before yet more people are forced into destitution and food aid charities are put into the impossible position of having to turn people away."
Charlie Taylor, from the Welcome Centre in Huddersfield, is scared some charities may be forced to close.
She said: "There is going to be a crisis. If we don't exist, people won't have anywhere to turn for support. I fear the worst, people could die ultimately, which is a really really scary thought."
Kathy Bland, from the Leominster Food Bank, added: “Meeting the needs of the growing number of people asking for our support has become increasingly stressful for our team of volunteers and is not sustainable. At least in the height of the pandemic we knew there would eventually be an end to it.”
"We're in an impossible and untenable position" - Sabine Goodwin from the Independent Food Aid Network is concerned about the winter to come
Struggling to cope with the number of people seeking their support, independent food banks say the Government must act immediately to uprate benefit payments in line with inflation.
New research from the Resolution Foundation shows that absolute poverty is set to increase by 2.3 million people over the next two years, overwhelming an already overstretched third sector.
Paul O’Brien, from Micah in Liverpool said: “The pressure on food aid projects is being increased as those who are living on the bread line are being forced into destitution."
Lalitha Try, researcher at the Resolution Foundation added: "The government really do need to be thinking how best to support low income households enough, so they won’t be struggling as much as they are at the moment.”
Food bank reports rising demand for meals prepared with just a kettle
Cost of Living: advice on what you can do if you are struggling
A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise people are struggling with rising prices which is why we are protecting millions of the most vulnerable families with at least £1,200 of direct payments and saving households an average of £1,000 a year through our new Energy Price Guarantee.
“As part of our £37bn support package we are also allowing people on Universal Credit to keep £1,000 more of what they earn, while all households will receive £400 towards energy costs and vulnerable families in England are being supported by the Government’s Household Support Fund – which was boosted by £500million - to help pay for essentials.”