“We have to find better ways of supporting one another as a society than leaving people to rely on food charity. It’s not just about ending food banks, it’s about finding an alternative to the need for mass distribution of charity food in the fifth wealthiest country in the world.” Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, commented as the charity reported a 47% rise in food parcels given out by its volunteers between April and September – reflecting an explosion in demand for food aid during the pandemic, including from “newly hungry” families who had fallen into hardship.
During the first six months of the pandemic it distributed 1.2m food parcels, of which 470,000 went to families with children. April was its busiest ever month, while the volume of food it handed out went up by 59% compared with the same time in 2019. Despite record-breaking demand for help at its 1,400 food bank outlets, this was likely to be just the “tip of the iceberg” as many more people would have been helped by other community and welfare charities.
Trussell Trust’s network grew from about 50 to around 1,400 over the past decade, largely in response to austerity cuts to the social security system, but it insists it now wants to reverse that expansion.
“People think food banks will always step in. We do, and we will stay as long as we have to, but it is a sticking plaster,” said Revie.
She warned there was a danger that food banks, which could never be a comprehensive response to hunger. "We need to say as a society ‘we are not going to allow our citizens to fall so far that they need a food bank.’ ”