A heartbreaking 95% of hungry people flocking to foodbanks early last year were mired in destitution, a leading charity reveals today.
Britain’s biggest foodbank network, the Trussell Trust, published findings from its latest State of Hunger report laying bare the grim reality for hard-up families forced to seek help to eat.
The study revealed that 62% of working-age people referred to foodbanks in early 2020 were disabled – more than three times the rate in the working age population.
Average monthly household income after housing costs for people using foodbanks was just £248.
Trussell Trust chief executive Emma Revie 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 foodbanks 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.”
The Mirror told last month how foodbank demand rocketed by a third in the past 12 months as Trussell Trust centres handed out nearly 23 million meals.
The charity’s outlets gave away 2,537,198 emergency parcels in the year to April.
With each package containing enough food for three meals a day for three days, it meant the Trust provided 22,834,782 meals.
For its latest research, the charity used the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s definition of destitution which means “not being able to afford the absolute essentials that we all need to eat, stay warm and dry, and keep clean”.
Data came from 716 adults interviewed by researchers from Edinburgh-based Heriot-Watt University at 43 Trussell Trust foodbanks between January and March last year.
A separate study carried out among 436 people at 43 Trussell Trust foodbanks last June and July found 47% were in debt to the Department for Work and Pensions.
Ms Revie added: “We need Government at all levels to commit to ending the need for foodbanks 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.”
Former Government adviser Dame Louise Casey said “record foodbank use” showed “that too many people have been pushed into hardship by the pandemic”.
She added: “We have to stand together as we pull through this pandemic and not leave people behind, forced to rely on foodbanks to keep going.
“That is an abject failure by Government and all of us.
“Food aid should be a one off in the UK not a new form of charity.
“It is in this Government’s gift to end hunger, but it warrants a concerted cross-Government and cross-party action – a plan to end the need for foodbanks, delivered as an urgent priority.”
Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Jonathan Reynolds said: “How can anyone be expected to live on less that £250 a month?
“Universal Credit simply isn’t giving people what they need to live on and is trapping families in a cycle of debt and destitution.”
A Government spokesman said: “We are already supporting families who are most in need, spending billions more on welfare and planning a long-term route out of poverty by protecting jobs through furlough and helping people find new work through our Plan for Jobs.
“We also introduced our £269million Covid Local Support Grant to help children and families stay warm and well-fed throughout the pandemic.”