New report reveals how coronavirus has affected food bank use

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New research shows food banks are forecast to give out six emergency food parcels a minute this winter.

  • The Trussell Trust’s new analysis forecasts a 61% increase in food parcels needed across its UK network in October to December – six parcels given out every minute
  • During the start of the pandemic around half of people who used a food bank had never needed one before
  • Families with children have been hardest hit
  • The charity is clear the situation can be turned around if this evidence is prioritised and acted upon by government during the upcoming Comprehensive Spending Review and budget

Today the Trussell Trust has released a report Lockdown, Lifelines and the Long Haul Ahead revealing how coronavirus has affected food bank use, with a huge rise in people needing to usa food bank in its network for the first time. The Trussell Trust’s records also show that families with children are being hit the hardest during the crisis. 

Analysis carried out by Heriot-Watt University with support from the National Institute of Economic and Social Research estimates that if changes aren’t made this autumn, there is likely to be a 61% rise in need at food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network this winter, equating to 846,000 food parcels being given out. 

The charity warns that with mass unemployment predicted on a scale not seen since the early ninetiesthere will be further rises in poverty with 670,000 additional people classed as destitute by the end of 2020, meaning they cannot afford essentials like housing, energy and food. This is otop of year-on-year rises in the number of people unable to afford food and forced to food banks across the UK 

But the situation can be turned around, the charity saysThe government response to protect jobs and incomes during this pandemic has shown what a difference can be made when support structures are put in place. The much-needed rises to some benefit levels and the job retention scheme prevented many more people from facing destitution. But the charity warns that with these schemes set to endthe government must act now to ensure we are all protected. 

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.”

“But it doesn’t have to be like this. The pandemic has exposed the power of what happens when we stand together in the face of adversity. We must harness this power to create the changes needed to prevent many more people being locked into poverty this winter. 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-19.”

The charity says there should be no higher priority than preserving the lifelines that have saved many of us from destitution through this pandemic. It points to this autumn’s budget and Comprehensive Spending Review as an opportunity to: 

  • Protect people’s incomes by locking in the £20 rise to Universal Credit brought in at the start of the pandemic  
  • Help people hold on to more of their benefits through the economic crisis by suspending benefit debt deductions until a fairer approach to repayments can be introduced 
  • Make local safety nets as strong as possible by investing £250m in local welfare assistance in England 





Contact the Trussell Trust Press Office at 020 3137 3699 or [email protected] 


Notes to editors 

  1. On behalf of the Trussell Trust, the I-SPHERE team at Heriot-Watt University have modelled future levels of need for food banks. Their findings estimate that 846,000 three-day emergency food parcels are likely to be distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK wide network in the last quarter of 2020.  
  2. This represents at least an extra 300,000 on the same period in 2019 when 524,000 were distributed.  
  3. With 846,000 parcels estimated to be distributed, on average across this period 6.38 three-day emergency food parcels a minute will be given out 
  4. I-SPHERE have also estimated the total number of additional people that will be swept into destitution because of the economic crisis. People are defined as destitute if they cannot afford essentials such as shelter, food, heating, lighting, clothing and footwear, and basic toiletries. For more information on destitution please go here: 
  5. Their estimates show 672,905 additional people falling into destitution in the UK by the end of 2020.  
  6. For more information on the modelling approach please contact the Trussell Trust media team who will provide you with the full report.  
  7. The National Institute of Economic and Social Research (NIESR) supported this project, with their economic forecasts forming the basis for some of the assumptions in the modelling carried out by I-SPHERE. They have produced their own independent estimates of future need which are contained within the full report.  
  8. During the crisis the Trussell Trust’s administrative data shows that households with children have been hit the hardest. There was a 95 per cent increase in parcels given out to households with children in April 2020, compared to April 2019. Single people (41%) and couples (79%) saw lower percentage increases.  
  9. The Trussell Trust’s administrative data shows that over half (52%) of households that needed support from a food bank in the Trussell Trust’s network in April 2020 had not used a food bank in the network previously. This represents close to one hundred thousand new households (99,300 April – June 2020) 
  10. The Trussell Trust reported a year on year increase of 18 per cent between 2018/19 and 2019/20.  
  11. NIESR’s August review forecasts that the ILO rate of unemployment in the UK will reach 9.8 per cent in the last quart of 2020. The ONS’s time series on ILO unemployment 16-64 highlights that it has not reached that level since April – June 1994.  


About the Trussell Trust: 

  • We’re here to end the need for food banks in UK.  
  • We support a UK-wide network of more than 1,200 food bank centres and together we provide emergency food and support to people locked in poverty, and campaign for change to end the need for food banks in the UK.  
  • Our most recent figures for the number of emergency food supplies provided by our network: 
  • The Trussell Trust’s food bank network brings together volunteers, staff and supporters of all faiths and none to make a difference. Local churches play a vital part in this work, with around 12,000 churches actively involved in donating food, and providing venues, volunteers and financial support for food banks. 
  • You can read more about our work at