Hungrier than ever: Britain’s use of food banks triples

The Trussell Trust reveals 350,000 people have received emergency handouts since April, while government poverty tsar, Frank Field, condemns figures as ‘shocking’

The number of people resorting to food banks for emergency help to feed their families has more than tripled following the squeeze on benefits which intensified in April.

David Cameron’s own poverty tsar warned last night of the danger of food banks becoming an “institutional part” of the welfare state – and urged the Prime Minister to set up an inquiry into the issue. Frank Field, a welfare minister under Labour, told The Independent he was shocked by the steep increase in their use and added: “Something very serious is happening to people at the bottom of society.”

The Trussell Trust, the country’s biggest food bank operator, said it distributed food to 355,985 people, including nearly 120,000 children, between April and September compared with 113,264 during the same period in 2012. It handed out food to more people during those six months than in the whole of 2012, the trust said.

It released the figures days after the Red Cross announced it planned to distribute food aid to the needy in Britain this winter for the first time since the Second World War.

The trust attributed the increase to above-inflation food and energy price rises and pay freezes, as well as the impact of welfare changes in April, including the introduction of the so-called “bedroom tax”, cuts in council tax benefits and changes to the rules governing crisis loans.

It said people going to food banks had started returning food that needed to be warmed up because they could not afford to switch on their electricity. More than 65,000 people were referred to food banks over the period because of benefit changes – a four-fold increase – and another 117,000 people were referred because of delays in paying their benefits.

Mr Field will meet senior Downing Street officials next week to discuss the rapid spread of food banks.  The former minister said last night that food banks were a “thermometer” measuring the growing pressures facing Britain’s most hard-pressed families.

“Clearly something very serious is happening to people at the bottom of society which isn’t picked up in the official data,” Mr Field said.

“If you had said to me 10 years ago that we would be discussing the use of food banks, I would have led you to a dark room to recover.”

He said he had first asked the Prime Minister 14 months ago about the issue and had yet to receive a detailed response. Mr Field said he wanted to know whether Mr Cameron was “burying his head in the sand and hoping he could get through to the election.”

His call for an inquiry was backed by Chris Mould, the executive chairman of the Trussell Trust, which operates almost 400 food banks.

“The level of food poverty in the UK is not acceptable. It’s scandalous and it is causing deep distress to thousands of people,” Mr Mould said. “As a nation we need to accept that something is wrong and that we need to act now to stop UK hunger getting worse.”

Chris Johnes, Oxfam’s UK poverty programme director, said: “These figures lay bare the shocking scale of destitution, hardship and hunger in the UK. It is completely unacceptable that in the seventh wealthiest nation on the planet, the number of people turning to food banks has tripled.”

A government spokesman said it had taken action to ease the cost of living pressures on families by increasing the income tax threshold, pegging council tax for five years and freezing fuel duty.

He added: “The benefits system supports millions of people who are on low incomes or unemployed and there is no robust evidence that welfare reforms are linked to increased use of food banks.

“In fact, our welfare reforms will improve the lives of some of the poorest families in our communities with the universal credit making three million households better off – the majority of these from the bottom two-fifths of the income scale.”

A No10 spokesman said: “Food bank use went up 10 times under Labour. One of the reasons it has increased under this Government is that we have removed the block Labour put in place preventing jobcentres from referring people to food banks.“

But Frances O’Grady, the TUC’s general secretary, said: “These new figures show that despite trying desperately hard to make ends meet, hundreds of thousands of people still can’t afford to put food on the table for their families. Welfare reforms like the bedroom tax have pushed more households into food poverty.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager

£20000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This full service social media ...

Recruitment Genius: Data Analyst - Online Marketing

£24000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We are 'Changemakers in retail'...

Austen Lloyd: Senior Residential Conveyancer

Very Competitive: Austen Lloyd: Senior Conveyancer - South West We are see...

Austen Lloyd: Residential / Commercial Property Solicitor

Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: DORSET MARKET TOWN - SENIOR PROPERTY SOLICITOR...

Day In a Page

Isis in Iraq: Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment by militants

'Jilan killed herself in the bathroom. She cut her wrists and hanged herself'

Yazidi girls killing themselves to escape rape and imprisonment
Ed Balls interview: 'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'

Ed Balls interview

'If I think about the deficit when I'm playing the piano, it all goes wrong'
He's behind you, dude!

US stars in UK panto

From David Hasselhoff to Jerry Hall
Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz: What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?

Grace Dent's Christmas Quiz

What are you – a festive curmudgeon or top of the tree?
Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Nasa planning to build cloud cities in airships above Venus

Planet’s surface is inhospitable to humans but 30 miles above it is almost perfect
Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

Autism-friendly theatre

Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there