The Trussell Trust have today published I-SPHERE’s second report on the State of Hunger in the UK. State of Hunger is the largest ever study into hunger and food bank use in the UK.
The research reveals the extreme poverty faced by people at food banks going into the Covid pandemic, with just £248 a month on average to survive on after housing costs. That money, just 13% of the average national income, needs to cover energy and water costs, council tax, food, and other essentials. In early 2020 95% of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network were living in ‘destitution’ – this means people cannot afford to eat and stay warm and dry.
The main reason people had such low income was due to social security payments failing to cover the cost of living. This was more often than not due to the design of the system, including issues such as the five-week wait for a first Universal Credit payment and low levels of payments. The research finds in mid-2020 nine in 10 households at food banks were in debt, while six in 10 had arrears on bills and owed money on loans.
More than six in ten (62%) of working-age people referred to a food bank in early 2020 were disabled – that’s more than three times the rate in the UK working age population. And single parent families are more likely to be forced to a food bank, with almost one in five (18%) of households referred to food banks during the pandemic being single parents – that’s more than twice the rate in the general population (8%).
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said:
How can anyone in this country stay warm and dry and buy food on just £248 a month after rent? People struggling in extreme poverty are pushed to the doors of food banks because they do not have enough money to survive. Hunger in the UK isn’t about food – it’s about people not being able to afford the basics.
We know we can change this. We need to change the conversation around poverty and take action together. We need government at all levels to commit to ending the need for food banks once and for all and to develop a plan to do so. It’s time for government to make this a priority – to recognise that it must be an essential part of their levelling up agenda to work towards a hunger free future where we can all afford the basics.
The Trussell Trust launched the report today at a cross- party event and calls for government at all levels to commit to working to end the need for food banks for good. The Charity is also urging the public to sign up to its Hunger Free Future movement trusselltrust.org/hungerfree to become part of a new conversation about how, together, we can end the need for food banks.