More people than ever are using food banks

This article is 54 months old


New figures show April to September 2019 to be the busiest half-year period for food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network since the charity opened.

During the six months, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK - more than a third of these (301,653) to children.

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.

'State of Hunger' report

The new figures come just a week after the Trussell Trust released 'State of Hunger', the most in-depth study ever published into hunger and the reasons for food bank use in the UK.

The research revealed:

  • The average weekly income of households at food banks is only £50 after paying rent
  • One in five have no money coming in at all in the month before being referred for emergency food
  • 94% of people at food banks are destitute.

Reasons for people needing emergency food

The main reasons for people needing emergency food are:

  • Low benefit income (36%)

  • Delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.

'State of Hunger' shows there are three reasons for food bank use that happen together and leave people no protection from hunger and poverty.

These are:

  • Problems with the benefits system
  • Ill health or challenging life experiences
  • A lack of local support.

Five-week wait for Universal Credit

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

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 because of a delay in benefits being paid in the UK were linked to Universal Credit.

At the moment, people moving onto the government’s new benefits system have to wait at least five weeks – and often longer – with no money. People can request an Advance Payment but this is a loan that must be paid back, often forcing people into debt.

The Trussell Trust's Call to Action

As the election nears, the Trussell Trust is calling for politicians on all sides to pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics. It is asking the 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

  • Investing in local emergency support for people in crisis.

More information about food banks

Food banks, largely run by volunteers, provide emergency boxes of food (usually a supply for a minimum of three days) and offer support for people in a crisis. The food is donated by members of the local community. Many also give personal hygiene items such as toilet paper and soap.

Some foodbanks offer hot meals and advice sessions. They may also be able to refer you to other local agencies for further help, depending on your situation.

To get access to a food bank, you need a food bank voucher from a professional or organisation working with the foodbank. This might be a health or social care worker (GP, nurses, social worker etc.) or local charity such as Citizens Advice. The referral process may vary from food bank to food bank so check with your local foodbank who in your local area can refer people to them. 

The Trussell Trust website has a Find a Food Bank tool on its website.