More than 14 million people in the UK live below the poverty line.
“What we are seeing year-upon-year is more and more people struggling to eat because they simply cannot afford food. This is not right.” – Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust
There are a staggering 2,000+ foodbanks in the UK as 2019 draws to a close
The number is growing every week because things are steadily getting worse, not better. People who care enough are setting up food aid schemes in towns and cities everywhere.
It’s a totally voluntary reaction to the rising numbers in poverty, especially hungry children.
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN)
Founded in 2016, IFAN attempts to provide unified national representation and voice for the hundreds of independent food banks and other food aid providers across the entire UK.
Its objective is simply to have everyone eating good food and no longer need food banks.
What are the root causes of the need for food aid?
IFAN’s website sums it up as
“.. the result of a complex set of structural issues relating but not restricted to problems of insecure, inadequate and expensive housing, insecure and low paid employment, insufficient social welfare provision, poor health, and environmentally unsustainable and socially unjust food production and distribution system.” – IFAN vision and key principles.
- The 5 week payment delay (down from the original 8 weeks) that is deliberately built into the Universal Credit benefits system is the biggest culprit
- Next is the despicable sanctions climate enforced by the Department for Work and Pensions that leaves people literally penniless for weeks on end
The Government is causing the bulk of this crisis and doing absolutely nothing to alleviate it.
In fact, Tory MPs deliberately visited food banks in 2018 for photo opportunities in a horrific and cynical self-promotion campaign.
The Trussell Trust is the single biggest foodbank network
Since its first UK foodbank in Salisbury in 2000, it has grown to a network of over 1,200 outlets with over 40,000 volunteers. That’s about two thirds of all UK food banks.
Its highly organised admin structure means it supplies the bulk of statistics for the UKs’ food bank usage.
It is also a leading campaigner for change to end the need for .
Schools now have to set up food aid and other welfare measures
Chronic education underfunding is struggling to help hungry children.
The Association of School and College Leaders says almost half of our schools (43%) are offering food aid to families.
More and more schools (about 8%) have set up food banks. Others are serving school meals outside of term time and washing pupils’ uniforms and clothes. That reflects a level of dire poverty where parents are unable to provide this basic level of care for their children.
What are the main challenges facing foodbanks?
Food banks are being normalised and now being taken for granted. One symptom is seeing a donation box inside the door of your local supermarket.
Those boxes are a vital supply line for food banks but they also become part of the picture of our everyday lives. That breeds acceptance.
- Running a food bank is a constant battle to ensure stocks of food and other essentials
- Food and money donations fluctuate wildly and it’s difficult to maintain steady stocks
- Storage, collection and distribution costs money, so obtaining donations is critical
- Volunteer levels naturally fluctuate around a core of dedicated people
What’s in a food parcel?
A newspaper reporter went to find out and tried to live off one for a week.
Stories from the food banks
Student and charity worker Jaime (20) helps out at his local service centre which helps people who are homeless.
He notes that donated food is well used and the community bands together to help. He says that any food that isn’t used is sent off to the local food bank but they welcome more to be donated.
There, the food isn’t as much the issue – the clothing and freezer storage run at capacity and the integrity of the building is not good as it was never meant to be permanent.
The homeless are at the highest risk of hunger but all those at risk should be helped. This summer there was a food shortage at a food bank in Preston, with only a few cans remaining during a ‘summer crisis’. Donations dropped 80% whilst demand rose 150%.
These stories of desperation are everywhere, and it’s growing more critical than ever to fix this national scandal.
Beck, D. (Apr2019.) Food banks are becoming institutionalised in the UK. The Conversation. Retrieved from http://theconversation.com/food-banks-are-becoming-institutionalised-in-the-uk-114325
Bona, E. (Oct 2019). We tried living off an emergency food bank parcel to understand the reality of life on the breadline. Liverpool Echo. Retrieved from https://www.liverpoolecho.co.uk/news/liverpool-news/tried-living-emergency-food-bank-17089193
Education Business (Sep 2019). Food banks increasing in schools. Retrieved from https://educationbusinessuk.net/news/03092019/food-banks-increasing-schools
Independent Food Aid Network (2019). About Us. Retrieved from http://www.foodaidnetwork.org.uk/about-us
The Big Issue (Dec 2018). This is the shocking reality of foodbanks in 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.bigissue.com/latest/social-activism/this-is-the-shocking-reality-of-foodbanks-in-2018/
The Trussell Trust (2019). Latest stats. Retrieved from https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/
UK Government (Oct 2019). Food Banks in the UK. Retrieved from https://researchbriefings.parliament.uk/ResearchBriefing/Summary/CBP-8585
Walker, A. (Aug 2019). ‘Down to the last few tins’: summer crisis at Preston food bank. The Guardian. Retrieved from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2019/aug/29/down-to-the-last-few-tins-summer-crisis-at-preston-food-bank