More UK families relying on food donations amid cost of living crisis
A record number of food parcels were handed out in the past year in the UK by the country's largest food-bank provider, amid Britain’s cost of living crisis.
The Trussell Trust charity distributed nearly 3 million food parcels in 2022-23, its highest ever total and a year-on-year increase of 37%.
One in five people using a Trussell food bank over the period were in work, the charity said, reflecting the difficulties many low-income households have in affording everyday essentials amid soaring energy bills and food prices.
Trussell’s chief executive, Emma Revie, said the demand for food parcels last year was higher than it had been during the first year of the Covid pandemic, “which we had all assumed was a once-in-a-lifetime level of need”.
The number of Trussell Trust food parcels distributed had grown by 120% over the past five years, Revie said. In 2017-18 it gave out 1.4 million parcels, at the time a record. The figure increased in four of the following five years before hitting its current peak.
Rising food and energy costs in particular have seen many households struggling over the past year - but neither the pandemic nor recent cost-of-living pressures could explain the rising demand over the past five years, Revie said.
Food bank use soared across all regions of the UK, with the biggest annual increase in food parcel distribution – 54% – seen in the north-east of England.
“We are experiencing an unprecedented rise in the number of people coming to the food bank, particularly employed people who are no longer able to balance a low income against rising living costs,” said Brian Thomas, the chief executive of Trussell’s South Tyneside food bank.
Until relatively recently, the bulk of people using food banks were in effect destitute, but static incomes and rising prices have changed that profile. People in low-paid and insecure jobs, typically in retail, social care, hospitality and warehousing, are increasingly reliant on charity food, food banks say.
The Trussell figures, taken from its 1,646 outlets, are a reliable general indicator of worsening trends in levels of UK hunger and poverty, although the trust is clear they are only “part of the picture” of people struggling to afford food.
The trust does not operate in about a quarter of UK local authority areas, and thousands of food banks and food aid charities exist outside its network. Food banks as a whole do not capture the full extent of hunger, with government figures suggesting just 14% of people in severe food insecurity visit food banks.
Source: BBC and Guardian