Massive rise in food poverty as nearly 1 million flock to food banks
Published by Max Salsbury for 24dash.com in Health and also in Communities
Nearly 1,000,000 Brits received three days' emergency food from Trussell Trust food banks in 2013-14.
A worrying 913,138 people sought support in the period, representing a massive increase on the 346,992 who turned to food banks in 2012-13 - a 163% rise.
And the Trussell Trust's chairman says that the figures are just "the tip of the iceberg" of food poverty in the UK.
Static incomes, rising living costs, low pay, underemployment and problems with welfare, especially sanctioning, have driven the demand, according to the Trussell Trust.
In a recent survey, 83% of Trussell Trust food banks reported that benefits sanctions have caused more people to be referred to them for emergency food.
Half of referrals to food banks in 2013-14 were a result of benefit delays or changes.
Trussell Trust chairman Chris Mould said: "That 900,000 people have received three days’ food from a food bank, close to triple the numbers helped last year, is shocking in 21st century Britain.
"But perhaps most worrying of all this figure is just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, it doesn’t include those helped by other emergency food providers, those living in towns where there is no food bank, people who are too ashamed to seek help or the large number of people who are only just coping by eating less and buying cheap food.
"In the last year we’ve seen things get worse, rather than better, for many people on low-incomes. It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.
"Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon. A more thoughtful approach to the administration of the benefits regime and sanctions in particular, increasing the minimum wage, introducing the living wage and looking at other measures such as social tariffs for essentials like energy would help to address the problem of UK hunger."
Whilst there has been a 163% increase in food bank use, there has only been a 45% increase in the number of new Trussell Trust food banks opening in the last year.
The rate of new food banks opening has reduced from three a week in 2012/13 to two a week in 2013/14. The Trussell Trust has launched over 400 food banks across the UK to date.
The Scottish government's welfare minister, Margaret Burgess, said: “These figures are alarming to say the least. In a modern country as rich as Scotland we should not have people going hungry.
“And what is more shocking is that this trend is increasing, with most people citing Westminster’s welfare reforms as the reason. This is a clear sign that these policies are not working."