Dependence on Foodbanks in danger of becoming 'new norm'

Dependence on food banks is in danger of becoming the new norm for low-income families, according to the UK's largest food bank network.

Trussell Trust

Foodbank usage remains at record levels, according to the latest figures released by The Trussell Trust, who gave out enough emergency food supplies to feed more than 1.1 million people in 2015-16.

Of this number, 415,866 packages were given to children.

"One million three day food supplies given out by our foodbanks every year is one million too many," said David McAuley, Trussell Trust's chief executive.

Problems with the welfare system, such as delays in benefit payments and sanctions, is the main reason for food bank use, according to the research produced in partnership with the University of Hull. 

Low income was also cited as a key driver in food bank use – nearly a fifth of all referrals came under this catergory, which includes working people in low-paid, insecure jobs with high living costs.

"Today's figures on national foodbank use prove that the numbers of people hitting a crisis where they cannot afford to buy food are still far too high," said McAuley.

"This must not become the new normal."

The Trussell Trust

For hunger to be tackled in the UK, the government must address problems with the benefits system, McAuley said.

Ninety-three per cent of foodbanks reported "administrative delays in benefit payments" as an issue driving food bank usage.

"Both The Trussell Trust's data and the University of Hull research point to an urgent need to find ways to help reduce the numbers of people experiencing problems with benefits, especially vulnerable people receiving sickness and disability benefits. We also need to ensure that people on low incomes or in insecure work have enough to live on," he said.

"The introduction of a national living wage is a great start, but more can be done for those in low paid work and unable to work. We need to listen to the experiences of people facing hunger and poverty, and work to find solutions to this problem."

The release of this report coincides with new official figures showing thousands of children in England started school underweight last year.

"For a minority of children, the school lunchtime represents the only chance each day to eat something substantial," said the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger.

"In an age of rampant child obesity there has been a shock increase in the number of children starting their first and final years of school who are underweight," they said.

The report recommended the government should also improve efforts to ensure poor families use their entitlement vouchers for free milk, fruit and vegetables.

"How can the world's fifth richest nation not know the extent of physical damage caused to its own children by a lack of food?" said the group's chairman, Frank Field MP.

A government spokesperson told the BBC it wanted "to eliminate child poverty and improve life chances for all".

"In the last Budget, we announced £10m of funding per year to expand breakfast clubs in schools up and down the country and have vowed to continue free school meals for more than 1.3 million children.

"We agree with the all-party group that nobody should go hungry, especially when surplus food goes to waste. We will therefore carefully consider the recommendations made in this report."