Food banks: Charity hands out highest-ever number of emergency parcels
13 November 2019, 02:51 | Updated: 13 November 2019, 09:35
More people than ever are being forced to go to food banks, with more than a third of emergency parcels going to children, a charity has warned.
The Trussell Trust, which runs a network of food banks across the UK, said it has given out more than 820,000 emergency food parcels in the last six months.
Data shows that April to September 2019 was the busiest six-month period in the trust's network since the charity opened.
During that period, 823,145 three-day emergency food parcels were given to people in crisis in the UK, with 301,653 going to children.
That is a 23% increase on the same period in 2018, the charity said - the sharpest increase for the last five years.
It said the main reasons people needed emergency food were low benefit income (36%), delays (18%) or changes (16%) to benefits being paid.
One of the key issues faced by people using food banks is the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the charity said.
The majority (65%) of food bank referrals made in the six month period were due to a delay in benefits being paid in the UK linked to Universal Credit.
Chief executive Emma Revie said: "Our benefits system is supposed to protect us all from being swept into poverty, but currently thousands of women, men and children are not receiving sufficient protection from destitution.
"This is not right. But we know this situation can be fixed - our benefits system could be the key to unlocking people from poverty.
"This General Election, all political parties must pledge to protect people from hunger by ensuring everyone has enough money for the basics.
"We want our next government to start working towards a future where no one needs a food bank by ending the five week wait for Universal Credit; ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living; and investing in local emergency support for people in crisis."
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The Trussell Trust has more than 1,200 food bank centres in its network.
A spokesman for the Department of Work and Pensions said: "We spend over £95bn a year on welfare, and have simplified the benefits system through Universal Credit.
"Free school meals are provided for 1.3 million disadvantaged children, and over £26m has also been invested in a breakfast club programme."
Margaret Greenwood, Labour's shadow work and pensions secretary, said: "It should be a source of shame for this government that food bank use has risen so sharply yet again.
"These figures show clearly how harsh, punitive Conservative policies like the five-week wait in Universal Credit are pushing people to the point of destitution."
(c) Sky News 2019: Food banks: Charity hands out highest-ever number of emergency parcels