Suzanne gave up work to look after her mother who has Parkinson’s. Her husband, a clinical nurse, had a nervous breakdown and is now on a back-to-work programme. Suddenly, they’d gone from being a comfortable two-salaried household to needing benefits. A bureaucratic error means that Suzanne’s family’s benefits were halved recently; as a result Suzanne and her husband have been going without food to feed their children. They’ve lost eight stone in weight between them, and Suzanne had to stop breastfeeding because she was too malnourished. She said that the foodbank parcel means they can eat a proper meal for the first time in weeks. The foodbank is providing an essential breathing space as their problem is resolved.
The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 300 church-led foodbanks which provide emergency food to people in crisis, and signpost people to other services able to help them address the underlying cause of the problem.
Redundancy, sickness, reduced working hours, benefit delays and domestic violence are just some of the reasons people turn to UK foodbanks.
Recently, squeezed incomes and rising living costs have caused more people across the UK to struggle to make ends meet, and The Trussell Trust is concerned that April’s proposed welfare and tax reforms will see numbers needing emergency food increase further. We’ve just launched an urgent Easter Appeal to help meet the anticipated demand.
We’re already seeing families whose incomes are stretched to breaking point turn to foodbanks because they cannot afford food. Almost five million people are in food poverty in the UK, and any further rises in prices or reductions in incomes will hit people in poverty hard. Numbers helped by Trussell Trust foodbanks are expected to top 300,000 this financial year, and April’s tax and welfare reforms will squeeze finances even further, making it easier for people to hit a crisis that forces them to go hungry.
There’s a misconception that UK hunger is about homelessness, but the reality is that one in every five UK mums regularly skips meals to feed her children, and less than five per cent of foodbank clients are homeless. Foodbanks are seeing working people come in on their lunch breaks.
Recent research commissioned by Kellogg’s shows that the UK’s poorest are spending nearly 25 per cent of their income on food, and that people are spending 20 per cent more on food than five years ago – but eating seven per cent less. Many of the poorest have cut back on fruit (20%) and vegetables (12%) to make ends meet.
The Trussell Trust partners with local churches and communities to run foodbanks providing three days’ emergency food to people in crisis. The Trust is also working hard to raise the profile of UK hunger, especially amongst policy-makers, so that the public and politicians of all parties are informed of the reality of UK food poverty.
This is a guest blog by Chris Mould, Executive Chairman of The Trussell Trust. To find out more about the work of the Trussell Trust, or to start a foodbank ,visit www.trusselltrust.org
Church Action on Poverty’s ‘Food, Fuel Finance‘ programme aims to tackle the ‘Poverty Premium’ which is one of the causes of food poverty.