Help the Hungry: Olivia Colman visits The Felix Project

More than 1.2 million food parcels given out during pandemic

Trussell Trust asks government to end ‘injustice’ of so many people depending on charity

Adam Forrest@adamtomforrest
Thursday 12 November 2020 10:10
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More than 1.2 million food parcels were given out during the pandemic, Britain’s biggest food bank network revealed – as charity bosses warned that demand for help continues to grow.

The Trussell Trust said more than 470,000 of its food parcels went out to children between April and September this year, the organisation’s busiest-ever six-month period.

It means 2,600 food parcels were provided for children every single day – a 52 per cent rise on the same period last year.

Launching its new Hunger Free Future campaign, The Trussell Trust effectively called on the government to put them out of business by ending the “injustice” of so many people having to ask charities for emergency help.

“Volunteers in food banks have been working hard under extremely difficult circumstances to make sure support is there for people struggling to afford essentials,” said chief executive Emma Revie. “But it’s not right that any of us are forced to a charity for food, at any time of the year.”  

The Trussell Trust said it was concerned that its network will continue to see unusually high levels of need over the winter because of ongoing job losses and reduced hours among those in the gig economy.

The organisation said its own figures were only the tip of the iceberg, since many will have been helped by independent food banks, charities and community groups.

One food bank in Tunbridge Wells said it was preparing for a 200 per cent increase in demand for parcels over Christmas. “The sad reality is that numbers are rising week on week,” said Nourish Community Foodbank’s operations manager Dawn Stanford.  

“We are preparing to deal with a peak at Christmas where we may be delivering to between 150 per cent to 200 per cent more people than an average week, pre-Covid 19,” she said.

The Trussell Trust wants Boris Johnson’s government to make the temporary £20-a-week rise in Universal Credit, brought in at the start of the pandemic, to be made permanent.

It also called on the government to suspend benefit debt deductions – money taken out of an employee’s pay if owed to the Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) – until a fairer approach to repayments can be introduced.

The charity welcomed the £170m set aside for struggling families through the Covid Winter Grant Scheme for England following Marcus Rashford’s high-profile campaign, but said the welfare system also had to be strengthened.

“In the last few weeks, we’ve seen incredible compassion and concern for people facing hunger following Marcus Rashford’s brilliant campaigning,” said Ms Revie.

“This vital local support must work in coordination with a national welfare system that is strong enough to act as a lifeline to anyone struggling to afford the essentials.”

The Felix Project makes a delivery

A spokesperson for the government said: “We are committed to making sure that the most vulnerable in our society are protected and we’ve put in place a strong package of support to ensure children and their families do not go hungry during this pandemic.

“Our additional £400m of funding includes £170m to help families stay warm and well-fed this winter, a further £16m to provide immediate support to front-line food aid charities and £220m Holiday Activities and Food programme.”

Meanwhile, food poverty charities across the UK are seeking more volunteers as they gear up for the extra demand for support this Christmas.

The Felix Project, which delivers surplus food to the most vulnerable, has already served over 13.5 million meals since the first lockdown began, with the backing of The Independent’s Help the Hungry campaign.  

Funds donated via our appeal – run along with our sister title the Evening Standard – have helped it quadruple capacity, and deliver about two million meals a month.

The organisation is still looking for volunteers to sort food in its north London warehouses, as well as volunteer drivers, to get supplies out to smaller charities across the capital in the weeks ahead.

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