New research that highlights the rapid growth of charity food provision in austerity Britain showed that there are at least 2,000 food banks operating in the UK, giving out emergency food parcels on a weekly basis to people in hardship.
The research complements established information compiled by the Trussell Trust, Britain’s biggest food bank network, which recently reported that it gave out a record 1.2 million food parcels to families and individuals in need in 2016-17, the ninth successive year in which demand had risen.
Emerging results from the mapping project undertaken by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), confirm that is only a partial picture of the scale of organised food bank provision, and suggest that the level of use is far greater than headline figures indicate. IFAN’s findings suggest that there are at least 651 grassroots food banks operating independently of the Trussell network, ranging from tiny voluntary groups that give out a few food parcels each week, to larger charity operations that hand out parcels to hundreds of clients each year.
IFAN chair Professor Jon May of Queen Mary University of London said the figures emphasised the rapid rise in the number of food banks over the past five years, and the changing geography of poverty.
“There are now food banks in almost every community, from the East End of London to the Cotswolds. The spread of food banks maps growing problems of poverty across the UK, but also the growing drive among many thousands of people across the country to try and do something about those problems,” he said.
Former justice minister Dominic Raab, was accused of making “stupid and deeply offensive” comments after saying people who use food banks typically do so not because of poverty, but because they have an occasional “cashflow problem”.
Raab said the claim came from the Trussell Trust, Britain’s largest provider of food banks. However, the trust said that while delays to benefit payments were one of the main reasons people turned to food banks, such crises tended to be exacerbated by poverty and low pay, which were also direct causes for many to seek help.