More than 131,000 emergency food parcels given out over past year in Wales, food bank charity says

More than 131,000 food parcels were given out to people in Wales facing financial hardship over the last year, an eminent food charity has said.

Annual figures released by the Trussell Trust, which has a network of food banks across the country, revealed that more than 48,500 of these were provided for children.

Demand for emergency food is 35% higher than it was at this period five years ago, the charity added, with a significant rise in the past six months and pressure building on the food bank network.

It also warned that these figures were unlikely to offer a full picture of demand, with "unprecedented numbers" of people also being given food parcels by other food providers and community-based groups.

Almost 50,000 emergency food parcels were given out for children Credit: PA Images

Susan Lloyd-Selby, Trussell Trust network lead in Wales, said many families were having to skip meals in order to feed their children.

"We should all be free from hunger. No one should be pushed deeper into poverty without enough money for the essentials we all need," she said.

"And yet people are telling us they're skipping meals to feed their children and turning off the heating so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.

"This isn't right – and food banks in our network are telling us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship.

"No one's income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry. 

"But there is still time for governments at every level to do the right thing, and ensure the incomes of people at the sharpest end of the crisis are enough to afford the essentials we all need in life.

"That’s why we're urging the Welsh Government to develop a plan to reduce and prevent the need for food banks in Wales and calling on the UK government to make benefits realistic for the times we face."

Many have struggled with energy bills. Credit: PA

A total of 63,483 emergency food parcels were distributed between October 2021 and the end of February of this year - a 4% increase on the same period in 2019/20.

In response, the Welsh Government said it would do all it could to help manage the cost of living crisis and its impact on people and families.

A spokesperson said: "We agree with the Trussell Trust that everyone should be able to afford food and to stay warm and dry.

"These figures are shocking and highlight the impact of the damaging decisions made by successive UK governments, which are plunging households in Wales into poverty.

"We will do everything we can to help people manage this cost-of-living crisis.

"We have provided £3.9m to tackle the causes of food poverty and we continue to support a wide range of schemes and measures – from free prescriptions to help with school uniform costs – which keep money in people's pockets.

"We continue to call on the UK Government to take urgent action, including reinstating the £20-a-week uplift to Universal Credit and uprating benefit payments to help families deal with soaring prices and effects of inflation."

The Trussell Trust was also critical of what it perceived as a lack of action from the Chancellor Rishi Sunak in his recent Spring Statement Credit: PA Images

The Trussell Trust also called on the UK Government to take various measures to help people dependent on food banks, including an uplifting of welfare benefits by at least 7% in line with inflation levels, which currently stand at a 30-year high.

It said: "In October the Chancellor whipped £20 a week away from low-income families across the country - the largest cut to welfare since the Second World War. 

"And in his Spring Statement, he rejected calls for benefits to be brought in line with the current rate of inflation to better reflect the true cost of living.

"This is on top of a five-year freeze on benefits rates, which means these payments are worth 11% less than they were a decade ago. "

In response the UK Government said: "We recognise the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.

"For the hardest hit, we're putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families on Universal Credit, have also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our Household Support Fund is there to help with the cost of everyday essentials."

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