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'I've seen people break down in tears': More people than ever turning to food banks

A food bank charity says it has recorded its busiest ever six month period, with more than a third of its emergency parcels going to children.

The Trussell Trust, which is based in Wiltshire, runs a network of food banks across the UK.

It said more people than ever before are being forced to go to food banks, with more than 820,000 emergency food parcels given out in the past six months.

It said data shows that April to September 2019 was the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust's network since the charity opened.

823,145
emergency food parcels were handed out in six months
301,653
of those were given to children
Credit: ITV News Meridian

The charity said this is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018 - the sharpest rate of increase the charity has seen for the past five years.

It said the main reasons for people needing emergency food are:

  • Low benefit income (36%)
  • Delays (18%)
  • Changes to benefits being paid (16%)

I've seen people come to the door, walk through that door and burst into tears because it's an actual release for them to know that there's a welcoming team of volunteers here to greet them. They're offered a tea and a coffee, a warm meal on that day and just a chance to talk. We sit down and talk to people and I've seen people cry, break down in tears."

"It's a really emotional role for me and my volunteers to hear these stories. It makes me feel sad that in 2019 we are in this position."

– Maria Stevenson, Project Manager, Salisbury Foodbank

One of the key issues people at food banks face is the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the charity said.

It added that although Universal Credit is not the only benefit payment people at food banks experience problems with, the majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in April - Sept 2019 due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.

Credit: ITV News Meridian

Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.

"This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed - our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.

"This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.

"We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis. "Together, these three changes will put money back into the pockets of people who most need our support. It's in our power as a country to end the need for food banks. This can change."

– Emma Revie, CEO, Trussell Trust
Credit: ITV News Meridian

There are more than 1,200 food bank centres in the Trussell Trust's network across the UK, and the charity said that research from the Independent Food Aid Network shows there are at least 817 independent food banks, so the Trussell Trust network accounts for roughly two-thirds of all food banks.

We spend over £95 billion a year on welfare, and have simplified the benefits system through Universal Credit.

"Free school meals are provided for 1.3 million disadvantaged children, and over £26 million has also been invested in a breakfast club programme."

– Spokesperson, Department for Work & Pensions