September 5, 2017
Food banks are available across the UK for those on low incomes struggling to find money for food. In recent years the number of food banks has risen dramatically, with many pointing to the 2008 recession and recent government ‘austerity’ cuts as causes.
Food bank users have an average household income of below £320 a month. Those who use food banks are said to be living in extreme financial vulnerability. Around five sixths of those who use food banks are unemployed and rely on benefits. Over two thirds have been frequently going without food. Furthermore, two thirds have health conditions, with a third suffering from mental health problems, and half of households including someone with a disability.
People using food banks are, on average, middle-aged and living in rented accommodation. The most common users of food banks are single men, lone mothers with children, and single women in that order. 87% of food bank users were born in the UK.
There are now at least 2000 food banks in the UK, up from just 2 prior to 2004. In 2012, the Trussel Trust (which runs a large percentage of UK food banks) gave out 61,500 food parcels. This rose to 1.2 million by 2016.
Over 90% of the food from food banks is donated by the public via schools, churches and businesses.
Most food banks in the UK are unable to help walk-ins – they run on a referral system. Vouchers are handed out to those in need by social workers, health visitors, Jobcentres, housing officials and the Citizens Advice Bureau. These vouchers can then be exchanged for nutritional food packages which contain 3 days’ worth of food.