Food bank use at record high as 350,000 emergency food parcels handed out

240123 foodbank tinned food crate itv westcountry
The Trussell Trust handed out almost 350,000 emergency food parcels in the East last year. Credit: ITV News

The number of people going without essentials and relying on emergency food parcels is higher than ever before, according to the UK's largest network of food banks.

The Trussell Trust handed out almost 350,000 food parcels to families facing hardship in the East between April 2023 and March 2024.

It is the highest number of parcels distributed in a single year in the region, a 129% increase compared to five years ago.

Two thirds of all support provided by the Trust's food banks was for families with children and almost 20,000 parcels were provided for pension age households.

Emergency food parcels handed out in the East of England

  • Adults (Apr 23 - March 24): 214,897

  • Adults (Apr 22 - Mar 23): 193,041

  • Children (Apr 23 - Mar 24): 135, 038

  • Children (Apr 22 - Mar 23): 131, 556

The Trussell Trust says it is "calling for urgent reform of the social security system as it is currently failing in its most basic duty - to protect people from going without essentials."

It also warned that "the next UK Government cannot afford to ignore this issue," and urged political leaders to set out how they will build a future where food banks are no longer required.

Henry Wilson, CEO, Haverhill Foodbank said: "It’s devastating to see such an uplift over the past five years in food parcels going to those aged 65 and over in our community.

"We've had some very sad phone calls from quite elderly people – in their eighties and nineties – who are struggling to afford even the essentials. We had a call from a lady in her late eighties who had nothing - no food in the house at all.

"All her money had gone towards other bills, and she was still falling short. We were able to give her food, and a small amount of money from the Household Support Fund for heating, but with that fund coming to an end in the next few months the situation is really worrying.

"We strongly urge the government to review the social security system to ensure it protects people from facing hardship.”

Top five local authorities in the East by the number of parcels handed out

  • Bedford: 24,478 (Adults: 15,966; Children: 8,512)

  • Colchester: 23,394 (Adults: 14,107; Children: 9,287)

  • East Suffolk: 23,273 (Adults: 15,381; Children: 7,892)

  • Southend-on-Sea: 19,932 (Adults: 11,964; Children: 7,968)

  • Cambridge: 14,725 (Adults: 9,657; Children: 5,068)

Want a quick and expert briefing on the biggest news stories? Listen to our latest podcasts to find out What You Need To Know