New figures show that the number of people using foodbanks have almost tripled in the past year.
The Trussell Trust, a charity which provides food banks nation-wide, recorded a total of 913,138 recipients, including 330,000 children, who received at least three days of emergency food in 2013-14, the highest figure documented since the establishment of the charity 14 years ago.
Eastlondonlines documented the rise of foodbanks in the boroughs back in April. From the four boroughs examined in the previous ELL article, Lewisham’s Trussell Trust foodbank was reported as having the greatest number of visitors, reaching 2,600 by December 2013, compared to almost 2,000 in Hackney, the second-most affected borough.
Recent figures, however, indicate that the numbers seen in the past year have exceeded what the Trust – which now runs over 400 foodbanks through the UK – expected.
This sharp rise – almost triple the number provided assistance in 2012-13 – is only the “tip of the iceberg,” according to Trussell Trust’s Chairman, Chris Mould.
“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon,” Mould added.
“It’s been extremely tough for a lot of people, with parents not eating properly in order to feed their children and more people than ever experiencing seemingly unfair and harsh benefits sanctions.”
Independent Lewisham-based foodbanks, such as the Lewisham Food Bank have also struggle to cope with the increasing demand for their services.
“When we opened in September 2012, we had 28 clients. [We]have grown to over 1000 clients with 28 staff, and are now open 7 days a week, including Christmas Day,” said Raymond Woolford, founder of the Lewisham Food Bank.
Woolford pointed to benefit sanctions, record rent levels, the bedroom tax, and high transportation costs as reasons for why growing numbers now rely on foodbanks to feed themselves and their families.
Whitefoot & Downham Community Food and Project (wdcfplus) have similarly become inundated with visitors, having received 634 visits by 165 separate visitors over a 24-week period up to June 2014, and cited similar reasons as Woolford for the rise in clients.
“Rising rates in food, fuel, heating, electricity and rent have all contributed to the rise, alongside income not increasing at the same rate,” said Janet Daby, Labour Councillor for Whitefoot and founder of wdcfplus.
Daby also pointed to the impact of benefit cuts on the local community as 15 percent of the 126 visitors who receive benefits hadheir benefits either stopped or reduced.
“The way benefits are sanctioned and stopped needs to be addressed as many people have ended up with no income for missing just one appointment, sometimes due to no fault of their own,” she said.
As the previous article reported, there remains a fear that the burden of picking up the pieces of welfare reform is falling on the voluntary sector as opposed to the government.
“The role of the food bank is not to act as an extension of the welfare state,” said Woolford, agreeing with the opinion of Head of the Oxfam UK Poverty Programme, Rachel Orr that access to food is “a basic human right.”
An All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty – launched in April 2014 to gather evidence on the extent and causes of hunger in Britain
– has begun to look into the issue, presenting similar findings to the Trussell Trust and other foodbank programs.
A recent report from the inquiry found: “The rising costs of housing, food and fuel have had an adverse impact on households’ ability to buy and cook meals.
“Since 2003 food, fuel and housing costs have all increased at a greater rate than earnings, with food (46.4 per cent) and fuel costs (154 per cent) increasing by a significantly greater amount than both earnings (27.9 per cent) and overall inflation (37.7 per cent).
It is too early to determine if the preliminary findings of the inquiry will have any effect on future government policy, with Daby, urging the government to “wake up and smell the coffee” before it is too late.
“If current trends continue, the rich/poor divide will continue, and the problem will continue to worsen. More people are likely to become homeless and the suicide rate could increase.”