Food banks are struggling with a surge in demand and a drop in donations
Food banks were already stretched during the coronavirus pandemic. The Trussell Trust, a charity representing over half of UK food banks, found the number of food parcels given out fell after the Covid-19 pandemicnumber of food parcels given out fell after the Covid-19 pandemic but remained above pre-pandemic levels. This means coronavirus-related pressures on food banks were still apparent when cost of living pressures started to show.
In August, IFAN surveyed its organisations once again. Between April and August 2022, nearly 90% of IFAN food banks saw a rise in demand. IFAN also found 72% of food banks reported a drop in food donations and 87% said they were experiencing supply issues since April 2022, with 19% having to reduce the food parcel size. If need continues to increase, according to IFAN, “68% of organisations say they may not be able to support everyone who needs their help or may have to reduce the size of their food parcels to meet increasing demand”.
Citizens Advice, one of the organisations that can supply food vouchers to access a food bank, publishes statistics on food bank referrals. In August 2022 it gave out 14,704 vouchers, around 6,500 more than in August 2021, despite Government support paid out over the summer.
The decade-long rise food bank use continues
The number of parcels given out by the Trussell Trust has been gradually rising for over 10 years, with sharp increases around 2013 and during the coronavirus pandemic in 2020-21.
In 2021/22 the Trussell Trust supplied 2.2 million three-day emergency food parcels – an increase of 14% compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019/20. There was a decrease of 15% between the pandemic year of 2020/21 and 2021/22, but the general trend shows a gradual steady increase. The sudden jump in demand during the pandemic put a large strain on food banks with only a short reprieve in spring before the consequences of the rise in cost of living began to be felt.
Who uses food banks?
The rise in the cost of living will have a worse effect on those already reliant on benefits or experiencing problems with health, accommodation, family circumstances or a combination of different factors. These are the people already most likely to use a food bank.
Citizens Advice statistics on food bank referrals for the last three years to August 2022 show the groups most likely to need a referral are social tenants and those with a disability or a health condition. Also, more referrals are given to single people and single people with children compared to couples with or without children.
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