The number of first-time food bank users has soared amid the coronavirus crisis, new research suggests.
Families with children have been hit hardest during the pandemic, the Trussell Trust - which runs more than 1,000 facilities across the UK - has warned, as it said nearly 100,000 needed help for the first time during lockdown.
A 61% rise in need at the Trust’s network is expected this winter, according to the study from Heriot-Watt University, supported by the National Institute of Economic and Social Research. That is on top of yearly rises in the number of people unable to afford food and forced using food banks.
But the charity warned that with mass unemployment being predicted there will be further rises in poverty, with 670,000 additional people forecast to be classed as destitute by the end of 2020 – meaning they cannot afford essentials like housing, energy and food.
The latest data shows that almost 100,000 households received support from a food bank in the network for the very first time, between April and June.
Prior to Covid
-19 hitting the UK, food banks run by the Trust network had been reporting annual increases in need, with 1.9 million emergency food parcels given out in 2019/20.
As the pandemic struck, the Trust said it saw an immediate and sustained surge in need across its food banks.
In April there was an 89% increase in the number of emergency food parcels given out compared with the same month in 2019, including a 107% increase in the number of parcels given to children.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: ‘Communities throughout the country have shown enormous resilience in helping more people than ever before, but food banks and other community charities cannot continue to pick up the pieces. None of us should need a charity’s help to put food on the table.
‘Our research finds that Covid
-19 has led to tens of thousands of new people needing to use a food bank for the first time. This is not right.
‘If we don’t take action now, there will be further catastrophic rises in poverty in the future.’
The report added that rises to some benefit levels and the job retention scheme prevented many more people from facing destitution, but warned that with these schemes set to end, the Government must continue to take action.
Ms Revie continued: ‘The pandemic has exposed the power of what happens when we stand together in the face of adversity.
‘With the furlough scheme set to wind down, we must act now to put in place protection for each other.
‘The Budget and Comprehensive Spending Review present a pivotal opportunity to put things right.
‘We must take it to help us weather the storm left in the wake of Covid