'This is not right': Over 2.5 million food bank parcels handed out across the UK in 12 months

22 April 2021, 08:29 | Updated: 22 April 2021, 08:36

Food bank usage has hit a record high for the second year in a row
Food bank usage has hit a record high for the second year in a row. Picture: PA Images
Ewan Quayle

By Ewan Quayle

A shocking rise in the number of people needing emergency support meant over 2.5 million food bank parcels have been handed out in the past 12 months.

Food bank usage rose by a third during the coronavirus pandemic, according to the Trussell Trust, which distributed a record 2,537,198 emergency food packages between April 2020 and March 2021.

Almost one million of them went to children - more than one parcel every minute.

It is the first time the total number of parcels has topped two million and is a rise of 33% compared to 2019-20 - itself a record year.

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The charity said the jump in people needing extra support is driven by the need for welfare payments to provide a "strong enough lifeline" and people not having enough money for the basics despite many being in work.

An earlier report by the Trust found the coronavirus pandemic also had a major part to play, with the UK's economic hardship deepening and tens of thousands of people losing their jobs every month.

Volunteers have been handing out food parcels and hot meals during the Covid-19 pandemic
Volunteers have been handing out food parcels and hot meals during the Covid-19 pandemic. Picture: PA Images

The charity warns that its figures only present a partial picture, as unprecedented numbers of people are being helped by independent food aid providers and community groups - many which sprang into action as a result of the outbreak.

The region most in need was London, with over 420,000 food parcels handed out in the past year.

Outside the capital, people in the North West claimed more than 313,000 - more than numbers in Scotland and Northern Ireland combined.

Ahead of local and regional elections on 6 May, the charity is urging the Government to develop a plan to end the need for food banks and calling on candidates to "commit to working to end the need for food banks" if elected.

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Trussell Trust chief executive, Emma Revie, said: "No one should face the indignity of needing emergency food.

"Yet our network of food banks has given out record numbers of food parcels as more and more people struggle without enough money for the essentials.

"This is not right but we know we can build a better future. This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit suddenly, but we know when we push for change, united by our desire for justice and compassion, the Government has to listen and act.

"We are asking you, the public, to write to your local candidates standing for election on May 6, asking them to commit to working to end the need for food banks if elected. Together we can take action now to build a hunger-free future."

Over 420,000 food parcels were handed out in London in the past year
Over 420,000 food parcels were handed out in London in the past year. Picture: Trussell Trust

Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network, said: "Independent food banks are also continuing to see relentless need for help, although combined Trussell Trust and independent food bank figures represent a fraction of the UK's food insecurity picture.

"Now more than ever, our social security system needs to be reset, local authority support schemes involving crisis grants prioritised and adequate wages and secure work ensured.

"It's the Government's responsibility to stop hunger from happening in the first place so that everyone is able to afford to buy food and other essentials."

A Government spokesman said: "We are committed to supporting the lowest-paid families and have targeted support to those most in need by raising the living wage, spending hundreds of billions to safeguard jobs, boosting welfare support by billions, and introducing the £269 million Covid Local Support Grant to help children and families stay well-fed.

"We know that getting into well-paid work is the best route out of poverty, and our multi-billion pound Plan for Jobs is helping people across the country re-join the workforce as restrictions are eased."