Ashfield MP Lee Anderson has been criticized for linking food bank use to cooking and budgeting skills.
Latest figures suggest dependency on food banks is growing across the UK as the cost of living crisis deepens, although a Conservative MP says people are using them because they ‘can’t cook properly’ and ‘can’t budget’.
Almost 2.2 million emergency food parcels were distributed across the UK last year, including more than 830,000 to children, data released by the Trussell Trust last month (27 April) shows.
Lee Anderson, 55, the Conservative MP for Ashfield, said yesterday (May 11) that in Britain there isn’t “this massive use of food banks” but “generation after generation that can’t cook properly” and “can’t budget “.
However, numbers suggest that food bank usage is directly affected by major issues hitting the country, from the pandemic to the current energy crisis.
The number of food parcels being distributed by the Trussell Trust food banks has gradually increased since 2014-15, with the number peaking at 2.6 million in 2020-21, at the height of the coronavirus pandemic.
The latest figures for 2021-22 show a 15% drop from last year’s figures.
However, the number given out was still 14% higher compared to 2019-20 (pre-pandemic) and it was only the second time the charity’s food banks had provided more than 2 million packages – an early indication of the impact at the expense of the living crisis has households across the country.
Mr Anderson’s comments were criticized by some Labor politicians, who said the comments were “incredible” and the Liberal Democrats described them as “disgraceful” and “an insult to millions of hard-working people”.
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.
Which areas rely the most on boards?
An analysis by Mazic News shows that residents in some communities may be much more dependent on food bank packages than in other areas.
Based on an analysis of total population versus total number of food parcels distributed, Eastbourne residents received the highest level of support. In the South East Parish, 17,440 emergency food parcels were distributed per 100,000 residents last year – the highest in the UK.
It was followed by Oadby and Wigston in the East Midlands at a rate of 14,768 and Newcastle upon Tyne in the North East at a rate of 14,661.
Based on the total number of total packages distributed, Sheffield residents received the most support with 60,142 packages, followed by Birmingham with 51,319 and Newcastle with 44,983. Trussell Trust food banks in Sheffield also delivered the most emergency food packages to children, totaling 22,926.
Regionally, Wales was found to have the highest rate of food parcels in the UK, with a rate of 4,140 food parcels per 100,000 population, followed by the North East at 3,735 and Scotland at 3,605.
What needs to be done to help people?
The Trussell Trust currently operates over 1,600 distribution centers in 293 local authorities in the UK.
Chief Executive Emma Revie called on the government to take action as people are “skipping meals to feed their children”.
She said: “Food banks in our network are telling us this will only get worse as their communities get deeper into financial difficulties.
“The UK government still has time to do the right thing. We are asking the UK Government to adjust benefits to reflect the true cost of living.
“As a first urgent step, benefits should be increased by at least 7% to keep up with the rising cost of living. In the longer term, we need government to introduce an obligation into the benefit system to make sure everyone has enough money in their pockets to stay out of trouble.
“By failing to make benefit payments realistic for the times we find ourselves in, the government now risks turning the cost-of-living crisis into a national emergency.”
What is the government doing to help?
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.
“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.”