Food banks give out file 3.1million emergency parcels in only one 12 months

The UK’s largest food bank network gave emergency support to over three million people last year – the highest number on record.

The Trussell Trust said the number is almost double that of five years with a massive 94% increase in a figure described as a “stain on society”. The charity warns today that even though inflation has eased, the number of people turning to its services in a moment of crisis is higher than ever.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, a total of 3,121,404 emergency food parcels were distributed. The staggering figure – the highest in a single year – included support for over 1.1million children.

Parcels going to households that had someone of pension age living there were up by more than a quarter (27%) to 179,000, the organisation said. It noted that older people, especially those still renting, were “finding themselves unable to afford essentials and facing hunger and severe hardship”.

The Trussell Trust is demanding both Rishi Sunak and Keir Starmer set out at the general election how they will build a future where no one needs a food bank to survive. Val McKie, who has previously used a foodbank, said: “The increasing need for food banks affects us all either directly or indirectly. It is a stain on our society, one which we can erase if we work together sharing our skills, knowledge and experiences with those who directly make policy.”

Emma Revie, the chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s 2024 and we’re facing historically high levels of food bank need. As a society, we cannot allow this to continue. We must not let food banks become the new norm.” She added: “Food banks are not the answer. They will be there to support people as long as they are needed, but our political leaders must take bold action to build a future where everyone has enough money to afford life’s essentials. The time to act is now.”

Wendy Doyle, an operations manager at Leeds South and East Foodbank said her centre had seen a 27% increase in pensioners relying on the service in the last year. She said: “Our volunteers are telling us that they are dealing with pensioners who can’t afford to put food on the table due to having to pay higher energy costs and that is the choice they are having to make.”

Responding to the figures, Labour’s Acting Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Alison McGovern said: “These dreadful figures lay bare the reality facing households across the country after 14 years of Tory misery. Rocketing reliance on food banks is completely at odds with this out-of-touch Government’s insistence that everything is rosy.”

A DWP spokesman said: “There are 1.1 million fewer people in absolute poverty compared to 2010 and our £108 billion cost of living support package prevented 1.3 million people falling into poverty in 2022-23. After boosting benefits and raising the State Pension, we’re putting more money in people’s pockets by raising the National Living Wage, cutting taxes and driving down inflation while investing billions through our Back to Work Plan to help over a million people break down barriers to work and become more financially secure.”

‘You can see the anxiety on their faces. We see some people who struggle to even get as far as the door’

Steve Huxford used an emergency food bank after an injury at work

Steve Huxford used an emergency food bank after an injury at work
Richard Haydon)

Steve Huxford relied on emergency food bank support in the summer of 2014 and now volunteers to help people in a moment of crisis. The 45-year-old says the number of people needing support at his local centre in Shepherd’s Bush has doubled over the last year with a “lot of first-timers” coming through the door.

“The number of times we hear ‘I’ve never needed anything like this’… you can see the anxiety on their faces. We see some people who struggle to even get as far as the door.” Steve added: “They’ll come in and throughout the service we’re able to come and sit and chat to them and give them a cup of tea and just spend a bit of time with them – see if there’s anything else that might help. Just that change between when they come in and go out is so nice to see.”

The former security worker was forced to use a food bank himself a decade ago after an injury took him “to a place of self-medication with alcohol”. He later left work and was diagnosed with a chronic health condition. But of the benefits he received at least half” of the money was going on the rent of his home London.

Describing his own first experience of using a food bank, he said: “It’s the kind of anxiety and that thought of never having to do anything like that before and having to accept it. I didn’t even know they existed until my mum told me. She came to help me get back on my feet and discovered my situation and said ‘no, we’re going to take you to the food bank.”

He urged the government to recognise the “struggles people are going through and helping to make life a little bit easier for them.” He added: “If people were able to get healthcare, especially the mental health care they need, then they’d be in a stronger position to go into work or back into work and stay in work.”