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The voice of Scotland’s vibrant voluntary sector

Published by Scottish Council for Voluntary Organisations

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Cost of living crisis driving foodbanks to “breaking point”

This news post is over 1 year old

New figures from the Trussell Trust show more emergency food parcels were given out during the April to September period than ever before

A leading foodbank charity is urging the UK government to take immediate action as local groups face “breaking point” amid a worsening cost of living crisis. 

New figures, released by the Trussell Trust, show that over the last six months, 320,000 people have been forced to turn to one of the charity’s foodbanks for first time.

The research found one in five people referred to foodbank in the Trussell Trust network are in working households, with volunteers set for busiest winter yet as levels of need outstrip donations 

In total, 1.3million emergency food parcels were provided to people between April and September this year by food banks in the charity’s UK network and almost half a million of these went to children.

That’s a third more than were provided during the same period in 2021 and an increase of more than 50% compared to pre-pandemic levels.  

The Trussell Trust, which supports more than 1,300 foodbank centres, says the cost of living emergency has created a “tsunami of need”, as people struggle to survive amidst the soaring costs of living.

With need outstripping donations for the first time in its history, the charity has been forced to launch an emergency appeal to ensure that food banks can meet the alarming level of need in their communities.   

In the first half of this financial year alone, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network provided more parcels than in a full 12-month period five years ago, when 1.2m emergency food parcels were distributed.

The charity warns that foodbanks and volunteers are at “breaking point”, both physically and mentally, and are set to face the hardest winter yet as they expect to provide more than 7,000 emergency food parcels a day on average in the next six months.  

Josie Barlow, food bank manager at Bradford Foodbank said:“Someone who came to the food bank recently told me that ‘buying milk is a luxury now’. So many people are struggling with bills and food prices. We are fortunate to be able to help people and we work hard to support them in both the short and long term, but we are also facing challenges.

“We have seen a huge increase in people coming to the food bank in the last two months compared to the same period last year and our stock levels are very low for this time of the year.” 

The Trussell Trust is calling on the UK government to act decisively in next week’s Budget.

The government’s targeted support to people on the lowest incomes via July’s Cost of Living Payment correlated with a small dip in need at food banks.

However, the charity warns that short-term interventions are neither sustainable for government nor dignified for people who are struggling, and they don’t solve the longer-term problem of people having to rely on food banks. 

Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “These new statistics show that, even in summer months, people are struggling to afford the essentials and we are expecting that this winter will be the hardest yet for food banks and the people they support. This is not right. 

“We know that with the right support and a stable and sufficient income, people don’t need to turn to food banks for support.

“Over the last few years, the government has acted to protect people who are struggling, and this action has had made a difference. They must now act again: with swift support now to help people through the winter, and with vision for the longer-term to ensure that social security is always enough to weather challenging times. 

“We are calling for the Prime Minister to act decisively in next week’s budget.

“We urge the UK government to realise their commitment of supporting people on the lowest income with a broad package of support. As well as ensuring that benefits rise with inflation as soon as possible, this must go further to close the gap between price rises and incomes over the winter.”

A Government spokesman told STV News said: “We are directly supporting households in need following the aftershocks from the pandemic and Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, including sending another Cost of Living Payment this month worth £324 to over eight million people, part of a £1,200 package for those on the lowest incomes.

“Our extensive immediate support for families also includes our energy price guarantee, saving around £700 for a typical household over winter, and our household support fund, worth over £1bn to help people with essential costs, combined with longer-term changes such as altering Universal Credit to help people keep £1,000 more of what they earn every year.”