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.”

Voices
The Sumatran tiger, endemic to the Indonesian island of Sumatra, is an endangered species
voicesJonathon Porritt: The wild tiger population is thought to have dropped by 97 per cent since 1900
News
The Swiss Re tower or 'Gherkin' was at one time the UK’s most expensive office when German bank IVG and private equity firm Evans Randall bought it
news
Arts and Entertainment
tv
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Sport
Van Gaal said that his challenge in taking over Bobby Robson's Barcelona team in 1993 has been easier than the task of resurrecting the current United side
football
Sport
Moeen Ali wearing the 'Save Gaza' and 'Free Palestine' wristbands on his left arm
cricket
Arts and Entertainment
The Great British Bake Off 2014 contestants
tv
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
filmThe Battle of the Five Armies trailer released
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
Beast would strip to his underpants and take to the stage with a slogan scrawled on his bare chest whilst fans shouted “you fat bastard” at him
musicIndie music promoter was was a feature at Carter gigs
Arts and Entertainment
Story line: Susanoo slays the Yamata no Orochi serpent in the Japanese version of a myth dating back 40,000 years
arts + entsApplying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Extras
indybest
News
Performers dressed as Tunnocks chocolate teacakes, a renowned Scottish confectionary, perform during the opening ceremony of the 2014 Commonwealth Games at Celtic Park in Glasgow on July 23, 2014.
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food + drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Life and Style
Shake down: Michelle and Barack Obama bump knuckles before an election night rally in Minnesota in 2008, the 'Washington Post' called it 'the fist bump heard round the world'
newsThe pound, a.k.a. the dap, greatly improves hygiene
Arts and Entertainment
La Roux
music
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

Project Manager,Conduct Risk,London,£5-600pd

£500 - £600 per day + competitive: Orgtel: My client, a leading bank, is curre...

PMO Manager (Portfolio Management, ExCel, Cost Benefit Analysis)

£450 - £500 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: PMO Manager - 6 month co...

Senior Fund Administrator - Edinburgh - £22 p/hr

£20 - £22 per hour + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Fund Administrator, Top Four ...

Nursery Nurse

£7 per hour: Randstad Education Chelmsford: Would you like to have a better wo...

Day In a Page

The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on