£11bn and 4 million unpaid hours supports “staggering” foodbank demand

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Low income families rely on foodbanks more than the state for support according to a new detailed report

17th October 2017 by Robert Armour 0 Comments

Welfare reforms and the roll-out of universal credit is forcing the record growth of foodbanks, a new report reveals.

According to the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan), Britain is in the midst of a food crisis and the growing reliance on foodbanks point to a failure in government policy.

More than 2,000 foodbanks are now recorded as operating in Britain, with around 700 independent and 1,235 Trussell Trust centres.

The research details the scope and extent of foodbanks in communities, revealing they provide goods and services worth £11bn to local economies, while volunteers provide free labour worth £30m.

And those giving up their free time to staff foodbanks put in a “staggering” 4.1 million hours of unpaid work every year distributing supplies.

Professor Jon May of Ifan said: “Ifan supports the efforts of the thousands of foodbanks, and tens of thousands of volunteers, working so hard to help feed their communities.

“But we call on government to stop relying on foodbanks, and to accept its responsibilities for Britain’s hunger crisis.

“In exchange for our financial contributions, government is required to ensure sufficient support is available to all, so that no one needs to rely on charity to feed themselves or their families. That contract has been broken.

“Even as government plans £12 billion in cuts to social security benefits by 2019/20, some of our largest companies continue to avoid paying their fair share in tax.”

Samantha Stapley of the Trussell Trust, said: “It’s astonishing to see a value put to the amazing and tireless work done by foodbank volunteers up and down the UK.

“Without this vital community support hundreds of thousands of people would be hungry, and with nowhere to turn. 

“But it is equally important to remember that whilst foodbank volunteers do inspiring work, they cannot replace the welfare safety net.

Without this vital community support hundreds of thousands of people would be hungry - Jon May

“Issues with benefit payments remain the main reason why people need a foodbank parcel, and with issues caused by universal credit increasingly reported by foodbanks as a concern, we urge the government to take steps to make sure people don’t face going hungry.”

Oxfam Scotland, Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, Nourish Scotland and The Poverty Alliance have joined forces to deliver a project aimed at reducing the need for and reliance on emergency food aid.

The three-year project, called A Menu for Change: Cash, Rights, Food, is working to pilot preventative and rights-based approaches to cut the number of people turning to foodbanks.

Speaking on behalf of the project, Anela Anwar, Oxfam Scotland programme manager, said: “It’s incredible to see the tireless work volunteers are doing across the country to try and stop people from going hungry.

“But it’s an absolute scandal that people in our country of plenty are going hungry in the first place.

“No one wants foodbanks to become a permanent feature of our society and we need to act now to make sure that they don’t become one.

“Our political leaders must ensure that everyone is able to access the money they need to put food on the table.”