The latest figures from the Trussell Trust, who operate more than 420 food banks across the UK, show that demand for emergency food relief in the UK has more than quadrupled since 2008, from 25,899 parcels in 2008/09 to 1,109,309 in the last year. The data suggests this number is only set to grow, and the Trust warns that this must not become the new normal.
The parcels contain three days of emergency food rations to tide people over emergencies, and the rise in their necessity runs parallel to the increasing levels of austerity following 2008’s financial crisis.
The Trust, collaborating with Hull University, has used data mapping to show an emerging correlation between food bank use, and areas where there are high numbers of skilled manual labourers, or who have long-term illnesses or disabilities. It also indicates that the main reasons for people to turn to food banks are problems with benefit payments, and low incomes.
The data is backed up by a report issued in July by researchers at Oxford and Chester Universities, which was authored by Dr. Elisabeth Garratt, who is a research fellow at the Centre for Social Investigation at Nuffield College, Oxford.
They studied Trussell Trust food bank in West Cheshire, where nearly 2,900 parcels were handed out last year. The report was titled “#stillhungry, Who is hungry, for how long, and why?”, and highlighted the impact of hunger on children, revealing that one in three food parcels was received by a child.
Dr. Garratt said, “We find that emergency food referrals rose in 2016 and there is every indication that food banks are here to stay. … These findings show there are huge levels of poverty—even in a country as wealthy as ours.”
The Trussell Trust also released a press report in July highlighting the pressures that school holidays put on already tight budgets when breakfast clubs and free school dinners stop. It claimed that around 1.5million parents across the UK would skip meals in order to feed their children over the school holidays, adding that last year the trust gave out 5000 more food parcels to children in July and August than in the previous two months.