Food banks hand out 2.1 million parcels amid fears of 'national emergency'

·Political Correspondent, Yahoo News UK
·5 min read
Volunteers at the Black Country Food Bank prepare food parcels for vulnerable individuals and families at their base in Halesowen today.   (Photo by David Jones/PA Images via Getty Images)
The Trussell Trust, one of the UK's largest food bank networks, have called on the government to do more to help Brits in food poverty. (Getty Images)

A leading food bank charity has warned of a "national emergency" amid the escalating cost-of-living crisis after they distributed 2 million food parcels in a year for the second time ever.

On Wednesday, new figures from one of the UK's largest food bank networks, the Trussell Trust, revealed that food bank usage in the last year was at its highest recorded level outside of the COVID lockdown.

Read more: MP forced to send more than a thousand constituents to a single foodbank

It comes as millions of Brits feel the pinch as rising taxes, soaring energy bills, and sharp increases in inflation hit household finances.

The Trussell Trust provided more than 2.1 million parcels from 1 April 2021 to 31 March 2022, a figure that has soared by more than a million compared to five years ago.

Some 830,000 parcels were provided for children in 2021/22 - a 15% increase on 2019/20.

More than 2 million emergency parcels were given out by Trussell Trust food banks in 2021/2022 for the second time ever. (Trussell Trust)
More than 2 million emergency parcels were given out by Trussell Trust food banks in 2021/2022 for the second time ever. (Trussell Trust)

While the number of parcels distributed has fallen from 2.5m during the height of the COVID pandemic, the Trussell Trust warned that the number of people requiring help has accelerated rapidly in the last six months following cuts to Universal Credit in October.

Numbers have soared in the last five years, with every region seeing a significant increase since 2016/17. In London, the number of emergency parcels distributed per year has more than doubled in this time.

Food bank use has soared in every UK region in the last five years. (Trussell Trust)
Food bank use has soared in every UK region in the last five years. (Trussell Trust)

The figures reveal there are are significant regional disparities in food bank usage.

Wales saw the highest number of food bank parcels per capita handed out in in 2021/2022.

Some 4,140 parcels were handed out per 100,000 people, followed by the East of England at 3,572 per 100,000, then the West Midlands at 3,483 per 100,000.

Emergency parcels handed out per 100,000 people in the UK. (Trussell Trust/Yahoo News UK analysis)
Emergency parcels handed out per 100,000 people in the UK. (Trussell Trust/Yahoo News UK analysis)

The East Midlands reported the lowest distribution of food parcels at 2,608 per 100,000.

The Trussell Trust has accused the government of choosing not to protect people "already struggling to make ends meet", warning that one in three people on Universal Credit are already skipping meals.

Read more: 'We’ve got empty shelves': Food bank’s stark warning as donations dry up

“People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework," said Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust.

“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship."

Revie said the Trussell Trust is calling on the government "to do the right thing" and bring benefits in line "with the true cost of living" as a start.

"As an urgent first step benefits should be increased by at least 7%, keeping pace with increases in the cost of living," said Revie.

WEYMOUTH, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 15: Volunteers work in a foodbank sorting hub at an industrial estate, on February 15, 2022 in Weymouth, England. As the UK faces a cost of living crisis, in part due to rising energy and food costs and tax rises, food banks across the country are experiencing increased use of their service. Figures for 2020/21 show approximately 2.5 million people used a foodbank in the United Kingdom, over 600 thousand more than the previous year. The number of foodbank users has increased every year from 26 thousand in 2008/9. (Photo by Finnbarr Webster/Getty Images)
The Trussell Trust report they distributed 2.1m food bank parcels in 2021/2022. (Getty Images)

"In the longer term, we need the government to introduce a commitment in the benefits system to ensure that everyone has enough money in their pockets to be prevented from falling into destitution.

“By failing to make benefits payments realistic for the times we face, the government now risks turning the cost of living crisis into a national emergency.”

Labour have criticised the government over the new figures, describing food banks as representative of "12 years of Tory economic mismanagement".

Read more: ‘It’s horrible’: Mum of three with incurable breast cancer unable to put heating on as energy bills soar

“Surging inflation alongside Boris Johnson's punishing tax rises, Universal Credits cuts, and the biggest real terms reduction in the state pension for 50 years, is contributing to the biggest drop in living standards in almost 70 years," Jonathan Ashworth, Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, said.

“Food banks are a symptom of economic failure and ministers must now offer real help to working people, disabled people, families, and pensioners struggling to feed themselves.

Britain's Prime Minister Boris Johnson and Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak arrive for a Cabinet meeting, in London, Britain October 13, 2020. REUTERS/Simon Dawson
The government are coming under growing pressure to provide more support for Brits struggling with the cost-of-living crisis. (Reuters)

"As a start, ministers should back Labour’s call for an emergency budget to offer real solutions to the cost of living crisis."

In February Garry Lemon, director of policy, external affairs and research at the Trussell Trust, told Yahoo News UK the country is "sleepwalking into food banks being part of the welfare state".

"I see things going in the wrong direction at the moment," he said.

"I can only see more people ending up needing food banks, and food banks in our network aren't going to stand by and allow people in their communities to starve."

Read more: Cost of living crisis: Labour piles more pressure on Rishi Sunak with emergency budget call

A government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22 billion across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.

“For the hardest hit, we’re putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families on Universal Credit, have also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our Household Support Fund is there to help with the cost of everyday essentials.”

Watch: Cost of living crisis: School staffing crisis 'imminent' as teachers turn to food banks

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