Posts in '2018'

Calls grow for Government measure of ‘hidden hunger’ as new figures show 1 in 4 parents skipping meals because of lack of money

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  • Over 1 in 10 adults and almost 1 in 4 parents with children aged 18 and under skipping meals because of lack of money
  • Majority of adults (3 in 5) have seen food bills go up in last 3 months, reflecting higher food inflation
  • 77% of adults agree the Government should measure household food insecurity**
  • Coalition of food poverty charities, End Hunger UK, calls for national measure of household food insecurity to tackle ‘hidden hunger’ crisis

New figures released today show the extent of ‘hidden hunger’ across Britain, with 16% of adults either skipping or seeing someone in their household skipping meals, 14% worrying about not having enough food to eat, and 8% going a whole day without eating because of lack of money in the last 12 months. People are seeing higher food bills, with 59% of adults seeing their groceries costing more in the last three months compared with the same period before.

Parents of children aged 18 and under are particularly food insecure, with 23% either skipping or seeing someone in their household skipping a meal due to a lack of money, 23% worrying about not having enough food to eat, and 13% going without eating for a whole day in the last 12 months. Parents with primary school-age children (aged 5-11) fared worst, with 27% either skipping or seeing someone in their household skipping meals to make ends meet in the last 12 months.

People in work didn’t fare better than the average, with similar figures for skipping meals, working about not having enough to eat and going a whole day without eating. However, the  survey also suggests other groups, such as people not in work and 18-24 year olds, face dangerous levels of food insecurity. 36% of unemployed people had skipped a meal and 28% had gone a whole day without eating, while 23% of 18-24 year olds had skipped a meal and 20% worried about not having enough food to eat.

Most (77%) of adults think the Government should monitor how many people in the UK are food insecure. Anti-poverty charity The Trussell Trust has reported that foodbank use is set to hit record numbers this financial year, but these figures do not include independent foodbanks (which make up around a 1/3 of the total number of UK foodbanks[1]), other food aid providers, or people who skip meals without asking for help.

Foodbank figures also cannot capture people who rely on friends and family or discount food to get by. Today’s figures show 21% of adults bought cheaper or discounted food out of necessity, while almost 1 in 10 (8%) relied on friends and family for a meal, highlighting the scale of ‘hidden hunger’. Parents with children aged 18 and under were even more likely to rely on friends and family (11%) or buy cheap or discounted food (28%).

In response to today’s new statistics, End Hunger UK, a coalition of food poverty organisations which includes The Trussell Trust, the Food Foundation, and the Independent Food Aid Network, have called on the Government to commit to measuring household food insecurity.

Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields and author of a bill on measuring food insecurity, said today:

‘Now is the time for the government to sit up and tackle the growing issue of hunger in our country. Whilst the Government has carried out snapshot measures of food insecurity, these are piecemeal and don’t allow for assessment of long-term trends. We know that 1.1 million food parcels are given out in Trussell Trust foodbanks alone but these figures are clearly the tip of the iceberg. – the United Nations has estimated over 8 million people in the UK are food insecure; approximately 2000 food banks and foodbank centres are in operation; rising levels of hospital admissions due to malnutrition cost the NHS £12bn per year; and there are record levels of in-work poverty.

Without a robust system of household food insecurity measurement in place, making policy to mitigate hunger will never become a reality. It is clear that the time for action is now and urgent. That’s why I’m taking a bill to Parliament to make the Government measure hidden hunger, because what gets measured gets mended.’

Laura Sandys, Chair and Founder of the Food Foundation, said today:

‘The research shows that more and more of British families are unable to provide regular meals and are frequently anxious about providing the basics –  food on the table for their families. Not only is this unacceptable in 21st Century Britain but we have to start counting the health and social consequences for the next generation. We know that food insecurity can trigger a range of unhealthy eating habits and force people to buy cheaper, less nutritious and more calorific food. This Government has an opportunity to lead the fight against this hidden hunger by measuring household food insecurity and making sure people can afford to feed themselves and their families a healthy diet.’



**Food insecurity is defined as going hungry, at risk of going hungry or worried about going hungry due to not being able to afford food


All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc.  Total sample size was 2032 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 16th – 17th January 2018.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).

End Hunger UK is supported by many national organisations, including: Baptist Union of Great Britain; Church Action on Poverty, Church of Scotland; First Steps Nutrition, Food Bank As It Is, Magic Breakfast; National Federation of Women’s Institutes; Nourish Scotland; Food Ethics Council; Food Matters; Oxfam GB; The Food Foundation; The Methodist Church; The Trussell Trust; Independent Food Aid Network; Student Christian Movement; Sustain: the alliance for better food and farming; Quakers in Britain and United Reformed Church.


[1]Mapping the UK’s Independent Foodbanks’, 2017, Independent Food Aid Network.

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Trussell Trust response to the Chancellor’s Spring Statement

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‘The Chancellor’s Spring Statement today offers an economy that works for some, but not all. The evidence from foodbanks is clear – for people who could struggle to find or cannot manage full time employment, the economy isn’t working. Disabled people and those with health issues are over-represented in foodbanks, along with families with children – especially single parents.

We urge the Chancellor to address these issues in the Budget later this year, specifically by unfreezing and uprating in line with inflation rates levels of child tax credits and child benefits in Universal Credit, and by ensuring work pays for parents as the new system rolls out by allowing families to keep more of what they earn. Reversing cuts to disability benefits and improving financial support for people on disabilities on Universal Credit will also help ensure fewer people need a foodbank referral in the future.’

Garry Lemon, Head of External Affairs

Read more about our research and advocacy work here, and read our groundbreaking research with the University of Oxford and Kings College, London, here.

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We smile, offer a cuppa and have a wee chat: what’s it actually like inside a foodbank?

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If you’ve caught any news over the past few years, you’ve probably heard a fair bit about the rise in foodbank use.

But it’s hard to imagine what a foodbank is actually like if you’ve never been inside one.

I run Hamilton District Foodbank. We work across Hamilton and Blantyre in South Lanarkshire, and have been giving emergency food to people referred to us since 2013 – in 2016-17 we provided 4,015 food supplies to local people. But like so many other foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network, we offer a lot more than emergency food. (more…)

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As the cold weather bites, how do we ensure everyone has enough money for fuel?

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“I am constantly writing letters and making phone calls to see what help or advice I can get. I am at breaking point, as each day there is something else to contend with. I feel helpless, mentally exhausted and so low. I really don’t know what I am going to do. I cannot get by month to month. It’s hard enough doing it week to week on a low income. I can’t afford to use my heating, even though it is so cold and my son suffers with his chest and lungs. No doubt he will end up in hospital during this cold period.”

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, we want to want to raise awareness not only of fuel poverty, but also the responses, both amongst local communities and through policy, that can stem the tide.

Foodbanks in The Trussell Trust’s network don’t currently measure how many people come through their doors facing fuel poverty. The University of Oxford research however, found that half of people at foodbanks can’t afford to heat their homes and households referred to foodbanks had, on average, £319 of income in the month preceding their referral and 1/5 of people still needing to pay housing costs over and above this. Even with housing benefit added in, this falls well below low income thresholds, and far below median income. Half of people at foodbanks were disabled, and 75% had a health condition, all making it more difficult to keep up with energy costs.

We asked foodbanks in our network how they were tackling this issue, and the results were both inspiring and heart-breaking. Inspiring, because it shows the sheer strength in communities coming together to help protect local people. Heart-breaking, because they highlight how people are restrained by the lack of help available, locked into a cycle of low incomes and high bills.

At least a quarter of Trussell Trust foodbanks were offering some help to make sure people weren’t left scrimping to keep the lights on, or having to sit in cold homes: from providing fuel vouchers, warm clothes and hot water bottles, to redistributing donated Winter Fuel Allowance funds, supporting communications with energy suppliers, providing signposting and advice, and even creating oil purchasing cooperatives.

We know there is good help out there – each energy provider has their own scheme to help people who are vulnerable or fuel-poor, and local authorities have schemes to help people struggling with energy costs. The Fuel Bank, our partnership with npower, has provided over 120,000 people on pre-payment meters help with their fuel costs, and has made a measurable difference in the lives of people who hit crisis. Yet, only 60% of foodbanks identified some sort of support being provided by their local authority, and much of this was not easy to access, nor long-term. And all the while, people are still referred to foodbanks up and down the country having not eaten a hot meal, or taken a hot shower in weeks.

We need to fix this, now.

This week, The Trussell Trust has submitted its response to the Department of Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy’s consultation on fuel poverty, in support of an amendment to legislation which would allow data companies to receive information about people’s benefit status, in order to place them on a safeguard tariff automatically. We know that people often don’t access the help available because it isn’t targeted to them, or they are simply hiding in plain sight – skipping meals or sitting in the dark. This would go a long way to solve that.

This Fuel Poverty Awareness Day, we’re calling for:

  • ‘Data matching’ between public authorities and energy companies, as proposed in the Government’s latest BEI consultation on fuel poverty measures
  • Maintaining safeguard tariffs or ‘price caps’ per unit of energy
  • Simplifying access to Warm Home Discounts to help vulnerable groups who may be disengaged
  • A standardised or comparable measure of fuel poverty across the UK
  • More targeted financial support for people facing fuel poverty to avoid ‘self-disconnection’
  • Increased statutory provision of energy efficiency measures to fuel poor households
  • Increased coordination, and improved accessibility, of energy and debt advice from local authorities and Jobcentres for vulnerable or hard to reach groups
  • A review of the impact of the Fuel Poverty and Health Booster Fund

You can read our Parliamentary briefing here.

Abby Jitendra, Senior Policy & Press Officer 

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Putting food on the table: the human right to eat in the fifth richest country in the world

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As a society, we believe in justice and compassion. That, as we grow up, we should have the same chance to get on and succeed in life – whether we’re from the Cheshire countryside, or the potteries of Stoke-on-Trent.

For most of us, this starts with having enough to eat, proper clothing, and a safe place to call home. But what happens when we can’t put enough food on the table? Who can – and should – step in to help?


Food poverty exists in Britain.

Here in Britain, one in five children suffer from what UNICEF call ‘food insecurity.’ This means that their families lack secure access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. More than eight million British adults struggle to get enough to eat, and almost five million of us have gone whole days without eating.

These are quite shocking figures. But the most surprising thing about them is the indifference that they have inspired in our government’s welfare policy. Despite our uncertain access to the most basic resources we need to survive, the government today are taking support away, rather than giving more out. Last year it was confirmed that working age benefits would stay frozen until 2020. It is estimated that this will reduce the overall welfare budget by about £13bn in real terms, just at the time when our country needs it the most.


We have a human right to food.

But in the last few years, more and more members of the legal community have started to question the legality of these cuts. While a democratically elected government can and should enact the laws that they please, once these policies start to impact people’s ability to access adequate and healthy food for themselves and their families, this becomes an issue of rights more than policy.

Under international law, the government have an obligation to put in place the infrastructure to provide food for those who cannot provide it for themselves and if the policies of this current government are failing to do this, then they are affecting our ability to enjoy our human right to food.


What is the human right to food?

In 1976, Britain ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).  This means that our Government legally recognises “the fundamental right of everyone to be free from hunger” (Article 11).

This also means that our Government must act to secure the human right that:

“Whenever individuals or groups are unable, for reasons beyond their control, to enjoy the right to food by the means at their disposal, States have the obligation to fulfil (provide) it, for example by providing food assistance or ensuring social safety nets for the most deprived.”

Jonathan Butterworth, an advisor to the British Institute of Human Rights, explains this commitment in incredibly plain terms. He says that “the Government is legally required by the ICESCR to secure the human right to adequate food for everyone in the UK”.

But the government are failing to do this. Cuts in welfare allowances and the lengthy waiting times associated with Universal Credit have all but stripped our country of its ‘social safety net’. While the government would have you believe that this is an issue of policy and economics, it is also an issue of the law. The government have made these obligations, and they are legally bound to fulfil them.


The recession

The government’s justification, though, is the trade deficit. They say that the country’s finances are so dire that there are no other options but to cut back on welfare and that the rise in food insecurity is an unfortunate side-effect of our budget deficit. But even when our country needs to tighten its belt, our human right to food must still legally be met. As Professor Geraldine van Bueren says

“Where a State faces severe resource constraints caused by a process of economic adjustment or recession, measures should be undertaken to ensure that the right to adequate food is especially fulfilled for vulnerable population groups and individuals.”

In Britain today though, statistics show that it is organisations like The Trussell Trust that have stepped in to help these vulnerable individuals. But while food banks are doing a fantastic job, they should not be the ones plugging the holes left by the welfare state. To solve hunger, the government are required to recognise and adhere to their responsibilities under international law.


The Government needs to act.

Our human right to food means that the Government needs to act. Right now, there are millions of people in this country who do not enjoy their human right to food, as described by the UN and ratified by the UK.

This is more than an issue of policy. It’s an issue of human rights and human decency. As a society, we have a moral responsibility to make sure that everyone has enough to eat. And as a signatory to ICESCR, our Government has a legal one.

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Why working with Asda & FareShare will help bring us closer to ending the need for foodbanks

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It’s simply not acceptable that so many people in the UK face hunger, and we won’t sit by whilst increasing numbers of people are expected to hit crisis and need a foodbank’s help.

We’re committed to creating long term change, challenging the structural issues that lock people into poverty and seeing an end to the need for foodbanks. Whilst we work on this, we’re also committed to ensuring everyone referred to a foodbank in our network receives the best possible support.

That’s why we’re pleased to announce a new partnership between Asda, FareShare and The Trussell Trust in a three-year programme that will help to tackle hunger in the UK in a number of ways.

Firstly, it will provide grant opportunities directly to foodbanks in our network, helping projects to access more training, volunteer resources, support and funding to provide not only emergency food to people referred, but even wider support to move out of crisis.

Crucially, the funding will also help us to enhance our More Than Food projects, offering more support to people at the point of crisis and helping rebuild community and dignity for people locked into hunger and poverty. Projects like our six week budget cookery course and holiday clubs provide more holistic support, and more funding for training volunteers will mean people can get targeted advice when they need it most.

We’re excited that the partnership will support the development of a fresh food delivery structure with food redistribution charity FareShare, giving more foodbanks in our network the opportunity to offer fresh food alongside the standard emergency food parcel to people referred.

Whilst all of this additional support will make a real difference to people at foodbanks in the immediate future, we will continue to unwaveringly speak truth to power, gathering robust evidence and raising awareness of the lived experience of people in poverty, so we can tackle the root causes of hunger in the long term. Over the last two years, our landmark research into hunger and poverty has already started to shed a light on why so many people are unable to afford food, and we’re pleased that this funding will support our research into the drivers of food insecurity and foodbank use over the next three years.

At the moment too many people across our society are facing hunger and that’s just not right. But it doesn’t have to be an inevitable part of Britain’s future. There are thousands of foodbank volunteers on the ground across the country, determined to ensure no one in their community goes hungry, and we’re privileged to be able to work alongside them to offer the best possible support to people whilst at the same time working towards a future where everyone is able to afford food. This funding will enable local communities to do this even more effectively.

We’re here to end hunger in the UK.


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Asda, The Trussell Trust and Fareshare launch £20 million partnership to help a million people out of food poverty

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We are thrilled to announce a new partnership between Asda, The Trussell Trust and FareShare in a three year programme that will prove transformative for people facing hunger in our communities. The Fight Hunger Create Change programme will give support directly to foodbanks across the UK to expand their services to help more people in crisis, and enable us to develop our More Than Food projects, such as holidays clubs and Eat Well Spend Less courses, that help build resilience so people are less likely to need a foodbank in the future. And in partnership with FareShare it will also create a delivery structure of fresh food to foodbanks. (more…)

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Why does having a disability or health issue make you more likely to face hunger?

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“I was sanctioned because I missed an appointment at the Job Centre.  I was severely depressed, and sometimes when I am like that I can’t leave the flat.  My electric has almost run out so I can’t heat water and I am having a light on as little as possible. I know the cause of my depression and anxiety but I can’t get any free counselling or help.”

Mick’s* account of his struggle to keep his benefits in payment is typical of many of those we hear at Exeter Foodbank.  Disclosing personal details to strangers, filling out complex paperwork or navigating call centre phone systems can be daunting for anyone.  For those, like Mick, who suffer from chronic mental health conditions, or have limited literacy and digital skills, it can be a Herculean step too far.  Many arrive at our foodbank’s doors in desperate circumstances, with nowhere else to turn. (more…)

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We can’t end hunger without knowing its scale

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Until you understand the true magnitude of a problem, you cannot effectively solve it. That’s why this week, as part of End Hunger UK, a coalition of organisations trying to eliminate hunger, we released figures on the scale of hidden hunger in this country. The findings are shocking. Over 1 in 10 adults are skipping meals because of lack of money. When you look at parents with children aged 18 and under, that rises to 1 in 4.

To anyone who has spent any time in a foodbank, however, these findings will not be a surprise. What is happening up and down the country is mirrored in our network of over 400 foodbanks. (more…)

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