Food banks are no longer serving just the homeless

During an evening at the Rainham Foodbank, James Moore discovers that more and more Brits are finding themselves below the poverty line

Thursday 26 September 2019 19:23 BST
Since the Trussell Trust was founded in 1997, 14 million people have signed up – 4.5 million of them children
Since the Trussell Trust was founded in 1997, 14 million people have signed up – 4.5 million of them children (The Trussell Trust)

Blossom’s story is a scary one. It shows just how easy it can be to get caught in the vice-like jaws of Britain’s poverty trap. A dental practice manager by trade, she’s the sort of person who you might imagine would pick her groceries up from, say, Sainsbury’s. Instead, she’s getting them from the Rainham Foodbank, part of the Trussell Trust’s 1,200-strong network that was set up with the aim of providing emergency assistance to those without enough money to eat in what remains one of the world’s richest countries.

That trap is one that ensnares more and more people every year. There are already 14 million people in it. Some 4.5 million of them are children. “I’ve got no money to spend on food,” Blossom tells me when we sit down together. She’s brought a friend with her to help her get a box full of much-needed provisions home. The trust provides the people who have been referred to its network with a minimum of three days worth of provisions. “When everything else is accounted for there’s nothing left. Zero,” Blossom says.

Blossom, not her real name, has had it tough. A bout of chickenpox while pregnant with her son left him with health issues, preventing her from working full time. When her daughter left home, her income took a severe hit through the loss of benefits and tax credits. Struggling with rent arrears, the benefits system and mental health issues (hardly surprising given her situation) that currently prevent her from working at her part-time job, she found herself in a desperate situation. A referral to the food bank followed.

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