Rising numbers in UK turning to food banks

 25 Apr 2013 - 4:02


A volunteer sorts through donations of food at the Hammersmith and Fulham food bank run by the Trussell Trust in London.

LONDON: Britain’s biggest food bank provider said yesterday that it had witnessed a near three-fold surge in the number of people relying on their handouts over the last 12 months as the economy is mired in difficulty.

The Trussell Trust, a Christian charity, said around 350,000 people received at least three days’ emergency food — an increase of 170 percent compared to the financial year before.

The trust runs 345 food banks — which distribute donated food to people who might otherwise go hungry — and is opening new ones at a rate of three per week. They gave out 2,462 tonnes of food in 2012-2013.

Britain, which is trying to eliminate its budget deficit, will find out Thursday whether it has slipped into a triple-dip recession.

The Trussell Trust said the government had to take note of the rising numbers in “food poverty”.

“The sheer volume of people who are turning to food banks because they can’t afford food is a wake-up call to the nation that we cannot ignore the hunger on our doorstep,” said its executive chairman Chris Mould.

“Politicians across the political spectrum urgently need to recognise the real extent of UK food poverty and create fresh policies that better address its underlying causes.”

Food boxes contain at least three days’ supply of non-perishable foods such as tinned fruit, vegetables, meat and fish as well as pasta, cereal, long-life milk, sauces, tea and long-life juice.

Around 129,000 people used Trussell Trust food banks in 2011-2012, up from 61,000 in 2010-2011 and 41,000 in the previous financial year.

“Incomes are being squeezed to breaking point,” said Mould. “We’re seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds turning to food banks: Working people coming in on their lunch-breaks, mums who are going hungry to feed their children, people whose benefits have been delayed and people who are struggling to find enough work.

“It’s shocking that people are going hungry in 21st-century Britain.”

Prime Minister David Cameron claimed in parliament on Wednesday that food bank use had surged under the previous Labour government, which left office in 2010. “These are difficult times and, of course, food bank use went up 10 times under Labour,” he said. AFP