Food banks facing ‘shocking’ poverty levels as cost of living crisis bites

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Food bank managers across the UK say they are reaching “critical levels” as demand rises and donations fall

New figures released this week by the Trussell Trust show food banks across the UK distributed nearly 2.2 million emergency food parcels last year.

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The Coventry Foodbank told Mazic News they are reaching a “critical level” of all stocks as fewer people are able to donate while more people depend on the service amid the cost of living crisis.

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Dee Ward, project manager at Coventry Foodbank, said the trust’s latest figures showed the “shocking reality” of poverty levels in the UK.

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We spoke to representatives from several food banks to understand how they are coping with the cost of living crisis, how they have been helping people in times of need and what they are asking the government to do to help.

How are food banks tackling the cost of living crisis?

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Dee Ward said they expect demand to continue to rise as centers report having their “busiest weeks”.

She said: “We are currently pre-packing 200 packages a week to meet the demand we are currently facing.

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“For the most part we’re making it, but we’re out of stocks of canned vegetables, canned fruit, canned potatoes, and instant puree.”

She added, “At current demand we will all have stocks at critical levels as the cost of living increases and people are unable to donate to us as regularly as they used to.”

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Nicola Hawkes, South Liverpool Foodbank coordinator, told Mazic News that the center “has seen a slight drop in regular donations in recent months, meaning we are regularly buying some items in significant quantities to ensure we are able to meet our diet.” can continue to provide a balanced supply of three-day packages.”

However, she added that the center has been blessed with “lots of new faces” from people looking for ways to help, as well as a “strong community response” in the area.

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Coventry Foodbank volunteers added: “What we are doing is a drop in the bucket of experienced poverty, but we are a very necessary drop.

“The support of visitors to the Tafel is a reminder to everyone that anything can happen in our lives that leads to a change in circumstances where we ourselves may need support from a network like a Tafel.”

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The vital work of food banks

Ms Ward said the Trussell Trust figures show the “shocking reality” of how people are “struggling and pushed to visit a food bank rather than having money to buy essentials”.

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She shared stories of people the center has helped and how they made a difference.

“A man who needed help for several months was an engineer by trade but had lost his job in the auto industry and was in a very difficult situation.

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“Over the weeks we supported him and referred him to other organizations, he found his way and managed to find a job to support his family.”

Ms Ward added that another woman “came to us in a terrible state with her children in tow; She was emotionally drained and abused and in such a low place.

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“We loved, supported, nurtured and listened to her heartbreaking story, but over the months we saw a gradual change for the better.

“Now she comes back with a smile on her face, happy and content, with her relationships restored and bringing us donations to help others.”

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Ms Hawkes, from South Liverpool Foodbank, said: “One customer story that comes to mind is a gentleman who came to one of our foodbanks who had been turned down for financial support to complete an ongoing professional qualifications assessment to to get back to work.

“The center he attended is run by a team of volunteers, including caseworkers, from the local parliament office and they were able to get funding for this assessment, he passed and subsequently found work.”

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“How can that be right in a society like ours?”

The Trussell Trust said the Government must act quickly to reduce the impact of the crisis on vulnerable communities and warned people who are already skipping meals to feed their children if they continue to struggle financially.

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Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, added the government should bring benefits in line with the “true cost of living” by increasing them by at least 7%.

She said: “People tell us they skip meals so they can feed their kids. That they turn off important devices so they can afford internet access for their kids so they can do their homework.

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“How can that be right in a society like ours? “

Since 2014-15 there has been a successive increase in the number of emergency food parcels being distributed by Trussell Trust food banks.

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The number peaked at 2.6 million in 2020-21 during the height of the coronavirus pandemic.

The latest figures for 2021-22 show a 15% year-on-year decrease, but the number was still 14% higher compared to 2019-20 (pre-pandemic).

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It was also only the second time the charity’s food banks had provided more than two million packages – an early indication of the impact the cost of living crisis is having on households across the country.

But the Trussell Trust said the Government is still choosing not to protect people who are already struggling to make ends meet.

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What are food banks pushing the government to do?

Ms Ward said she would like the Government to “acknowledge this report and commit to being a society where the social security system is robust enough to ensure that if you’re struggling, nobody in this country goes hungry”.

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She added: “The government needs to raise the base level of benefits to the actual cost of living and ensure that everyone can afford the necessities and pay for the cost of living, whatever the circumstances.”

Meanwhile, Ms Hawkes said there was “urgent need for welfare to rise in line with the cost of living”.

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What did the government say?

A Government spokesman said: “We recognize the pressure on the cost of living and are doing what we can to help, including spending £22billion over the next financial year to help people with energy bills and lower fuel taxes.

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“For those most affected, we’re putting an average of £1,000 more a year into the pockets of working families on Universal Credit, we’ve also increased the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our household support fund is there to help with the costs of everyday living to help.”

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