Food banks saw rising demand in 2013-14, the Trussell Trust said

Use of food banks for emergency supplies almost tripled in 2013-14, new figures have shown.

Food banks handed out three days’ emergency food to 913,138 people in the last 12 months, compared with 346,992 in 2012-13, the Trussell Trust said today. Of these, 330,205 were children.

The trust, which runs 423 food banks nationwide, said the 163% increase in usage outstripped the 45% increase in new locations, with the result that existing food banks were seeing “a significant uplift” in demand.

“This figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty,” said Chris Mould, chairman of the trust. “It doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no food bank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.

“This figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty”

Chris Mould, Trussell Trust

“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low incomes, we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.”

The top three reasons for people turning to a food bank according to the trust were: delays to benefit payments (30.93%), low income (20.29%) and benefit changes (16.97%).

“A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger,” said Mould.

Clergy letter

The trust’s report comes as a group of more than 600 leading bishops and clergy signed a letter calling on the government to launch urgent action on food poverty. The intervention, by the End Hunger Fast campaign, follows a letter signed by 27 bishops in February, and a 75,000-signature petition to end hunger handed in to Downing Street last month.

“With benefit changes, poverty wages and failing food markets leaving 900,000 people needing food aid Britain has become the hungry man of Europe,” said Keith Hebden, Mansfield priest  and spokesman for End Hunger Fast.

“The government ignores this call at its peril. I have never before seen religious leaders so united on an issue and I hope our collective words and prayers reach the ears of politicians who have the power to act.”

The letter will be delivered to the leaders of the three main political parties today by three church leaders who have been fasting for 40 days.

Safety net

A spokeswoman for the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) said the government was spending £94bn on benefits to provide a safety net for people on low incomes.

“There are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago”


“Even the OECD say there are fewer people struggling with their food bills compared with a few years ago, benefit processing times are improving and even the Trussell Trust’s own research recognises the effect their marketing activity has on the growth of their business,” she said.

“The truth is that the employment rate is the highest it’s been for five years and our reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities by promoting work and helping people to lift themselves out of poverty.”

New figures published by the DWP today showed that the UK unemployment rate dropped below 7% for the first time since 2009 to 6.9%. Between December and February, 30.39 million people were in work, and the employment level rose by 239,000 people on the previous quarter.

Meanwhile, the Office for National Statistics reported today that weekly wages have overtaken inflation for the first time in four years. Wages rose by 1.7% in February compared with 1.4% in January. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index, fell to 1.6% in March.

In numbers

  • 8,318 tonnes of food was donated by the public to food banks between 1 April 2013 and 31 March 2014, according to the Trussell Trust
  • Around 30,000 volunteers worked in a food bank during the year
  • 24,000 healthcare professionals gave food bank vouchers to people in need
  • The North West saw the biggest demand for food banks, with 138,644 referrals for help, followed by the South West (105,521) and London (95,639).