Do working people need food banks?

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You’ve probably heard the news stories – nurses needing food banks, teachers needing food banks, police officers needing food banks.

Every so often we get asked how many nurses, teachers and workers in other sectors use food banks, so we wanted to write about what evidence our network has about working people needing help from a food bank.

Everyone who comes to a food bank in our network is referred with a red voucher from a professional who partners with the food bank – such as a Citizens Advice worker, health visitor or children’s centre.  These professionals ask people some questions to gather basic information so the food bank can provide the right support for people in the household.

From this information, and other detailed research we’ve commissioned, we know the majority of people (86%) at food banks are not in work and are referred after experiencing an issue with the benefits system – therefore a lot of our research and campaigning work is focused on tackling these problems and preventing people needing food banks as a result of them.

1 in 7 people at food banks are in employment, or live with someone who is – the majority of that work is part-time.  We know many people at food banks are single parents or have a health issue – two things that not only put particular pressure on budgets so make people more likely to need food banks, but also make it harder to access the work place, and stay in it.

The overwhelming numbers of people experiencing problems with the benefits system have meant we’ve had to prioritise our work in this area. But we’re not just an organisation that could look at what is driving people with employment to need food banks – as a national network of food banks campaigning for change, we believe we have a responsibility to do so.

We’re currently developing our work on why some working people need food banks, with the help of other charities that have more experience working with the private sector to prevent people from being locked into poverty.  We’ll be sharing our data with an expert charity partner to look into why working people need food banks – and then we’ll be drawing on their know-how to have frank conversations with government, businesses and communities about why people need food banks and what needs to change.

There’s a part for everyone to play so we can reach a future without the need for food banks: government, communities and businesses all need to be working towards a future where everyone has enough money for a decent standard of living if we’re going to get there.