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Food banks giving out over 10% more emergency parcels than before pandemic as cost of living crisis bites

The DWP select committee heard that government support for those on low incomes is ‘insufficient’

The UK’s largest food bank network has seen demand increase in recent months amid the cost of living crisis, MPs have been told.

Demand for emergency food parcels from the Trussell Trust is yet to drop after peaking during 2020, with current data showing demand is closer to the all-time high of last year than pre-pandemic levels.

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At a glance: 5 key points

  • Welfare experts have warned that people on low incomes will face significant difficulties in the coming months as a result of the increased cost of living and a lack of government support
  • The number of emergency food parcels given out by the Trussell Trust between July and September 2021 was 7% more than the same period in 2019, while the total between October and December was 13% more than in 2019
  • MPs were told that ‘extremely low incomes’ are the main driver of food bank usage, while a majority of those who require emergency food parcels have some form of outstanding debt to the government 
  • Single adults and single-parent families as well as large families are the most at risk of requiring emergency food bank support, according to the Trussell Trust
  • A policy expert from the Trussell Trust said the government needs to be “getting money into people’s pockets now to avert the most extreme forms of hardship”

What’s been said?

Addressing the DWP select committee today (9 February) Rory Weal, senior policy and public affairs manager at the Trussell Trust, said that December 2021 was “one of the busiest months on record” for the organisation.

He said: ”There are real signs of an acceleration of need going into winter after some of the changes in the autumn around social security.

Weal also said that while extremely low incomes are the main driver of this demand, there is nothing “inevitable about that” and there are “policy responses there that can bring people out of destitution”.

He said: “Things proposed and coming on stream soon are unfortunately a bit insufficient and come too late for households. We need to be getting money into people’s pockets now to avert the most extreme forms of hardship we’re seeing.

“2020 to 2021 was a real outlier year, with 2.5m emergency food parcels handed out, significantly above anything we’d seen before. Some of the data now is looking closer to that than the pre-pandemic year.

“That’s the concern, and so the policy response should be at a similar place to what it was in 2020.”