Cost of living crisis leaves food banks ‘at breaking point’ with 320,000 first-time users

New research shows one in five foodbank users are now from working households. Credit: PA Archive/PA Images

The cost of living crisis is driving food banks to “breaking point” as they report hundreds of thousands of new users - including many from working households.

A total 1.3 million emergency parcels had been given to people in hunger over just six months, a leading charity has said.

The Trussell Trust issued a stark warning on Thursday after new research showed record-breaking levels of need, with one in five individuals referred to its network now coming from working households.

According to figures from the charity, which provides urgent support to those in poverty, more emergency food parcels were given out during the April to September period than ever before.

(PA Graphics) Credit: PA Graphics

Over the last six months, 320,000 people have been forced to turn to food banks for the first time, it added.

Nearly 1.3 million food parcels were handed out by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK network over the same period – almost half-a-million of which went to children.

This is double the number provided in the same timeframe before the pandemic and a third more than were given out between April and September last year.

Need is now exceeding donations for the first time in the charity’s history.

The trust has warned food banks are now at “breaking point” due to a “tsunami of need” driven by the cost-of-living crisis as it called on the Government to provide adequate support in its upcoming budget.

Josie Barlow, food bank manager at Bradford Food Bank said: “Someone who came to the food bank recently told me that ‘buying milk is a luxury now’. So many people are struggling with bills and food prices.

“We are fortunate to be able to help people and we work hard to support them in both the short and long term, but we are also facing challenges.

“We have seen a huge increase in people coming to the food bank in the last two months compared with the same period last year and our stock levels are very low for this time of the year.”

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “These new statistics show that, even in summer months, people are struggling to afford the essentials and we are expecting that this winter will be the hardest yet for food banks and the people they support. This is not right.”

She added: “We are calling for the Prime Minister to act decisively in next week’s budget. We urge the UK government to realise their commitment of supporting people on the lowest income with a broad package of support.

“As well as ensuring that benefits rise with inflation as soon as possible, this must go further to close the gap between price rises and incomes over the winter.”

A government spokesman said: “We are directly supporting households in need following the aftershocks from the pandemic and Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, including sending another Cost-of-Living Payment this month worth £324 to over eight million people, part of a £1,200 package for those on the lowest incomes.

“Our extensive immediate support for families also includes our energy price guarantee, saving around £700 for a typical household over winter, and our household support fund, worth over £1 billion to help people with essential costs, combined with longer-term changes such as altering Universal Credit to help people keep £1,000 more of what they earn every year.”

Jonathan Ashworth, the shadow work and pensions secretary, called the figures “staggering”.

The Labour MP said it was “frankly shameful that so many emergency food parcels are now needed to feed hungry children”.

“The Tories crashed the economy and working people are paying the price of the cost-of-living crisis engulfing families, disabled people and pensioners.”

The takeaway delivery company Deliveroo will launch a food collection service with the Trussell Trust in the run-up to Christmas.

Collecteroo will see unopened, in-date food items from people’s homes delivered to food banks in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Glasgow, and Cardiff.

The service will collect donations from people’s doorsteps, enabling people who are physically unable to get to supermarket donation points to give items.

People can sign up in advance to arrange a collection between December 12 and 17, and are encouraged to donate tins of fruit, meat, fish and tomatoes, pasta sauce, sponge or rice puddings and long-life milk and juice.

Will Shu, chief executive of Deliveroo, said: “Our research highlights that people have food in their cupboards that they would like to donate, so working closely with the Trussell Trust, our Collecteroo service will help make it easier for people to donate by connecting local residents to local food banks.

“Together with our consumers, we are committed to helping to tackle hunger across the UK.”

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