The UK’s largest network of food banks is preparing to spend millions of pounds to top up charity food parcels this winter as it delivers aid to a record number of families at risk of going hungry due to the crisis of the cost of living.
The Trussel Trust said the spending was necessary to ensure food banks had sufficient food reserves, as their usual main source of food supply – donations from the public – failed to keep pace with rapidly rising demand.
The trust said it expects 1.3 million emergency food parcels to be distributed by its members over the next six months to help a growing number of households in need – including 500,000 to families with children.
Its 420 food banks have already had to buy three times as much food this year as the year before to maintain supplies, he said, with each spending £1,400 a month on average to make sure they meet the need growing food parcels.
Unexpectedly high demand for food parcels in August and September, when demand is normally slower, means its food banks have been unable to stock enough food, leaving many stores relatively depleted as they prepare for their busiest time of year.
Food banks have traditionally relied on food donations from the public, businesses, schools, and faith groups, tending to use cash reserves only to meet occasional shortages of specific foodstuffs. However, with needs currently far outstripping food donations, almost a sixth of Trussell Trust food bank food supplies are typically purchased.
Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie has warned the government ‘food banks cannot be the only answer’ to the cost of living crisis, and called on ministers to offer a new round of targeted financial support to low-income households over the winter to avoid mounting hardship.
Although the government introduced a package of cost-of-living payments in July for people on low incomes, research by the Trussell Trust in August found that two-thirds of recipients had already spent the first tranche of aid that they had received. “He went to the right people, but it wasn’t enough,” Revie said.
The Trussell Trust is launching an emergency appeal for funds on Thursday to enable its UK network of local food banks to supplement food supplies, offer financial counseling services to food bank users and distribute non-food aid such only blankets and hot water bottles. .
“We never wanted to make a call like this, we would rather there was no need for food banks at all. But right now they are on the front lines of this cost of living emergency, we have no other choice,” Revie said.
Jamie Ginns, the head of the Greenwich food bank in south London, part of the Trussell Trust network, said she was currently giving out around a tonne of food a week in food aid more than she was giving away. received in food donations, forcing him to spend around £9,000 a month to buy food.
As soaring food prices helped push inflation to 10.1% in September, on top of rising energy bills, the Trussell Trust and other food banks are gearing up to do facing what Revie called a “tsunami of needs.”
Food Foundation data released earlier in the week showed the UK is experiencing alarming levels of food insecurity. Hunger levels have soared since the start of the year, with nearly 10 million adults and 4 million children regularly skipping food.