Innovation and invention for a different future

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Dave Massey, Head of Strategic Intelligence

The problem of poverty is growing here in the UK, and as the Covid-19 pandemic continues more and more people are struggling to afford the essentials. As our statistics show, the number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network rose almost 20% last year.

And as the impact of the pandemic began to be felt across the UK in April, need was a shocking 89% higher than the same period in 2019. Our latest research forecasts that this winter food banks in our network will give out six emergency food parcels every minute – a staggering 61% increase on last year.

This isn’t right. It is a huge concern for us and for food banks up and down the country, and should be a huge concern to everyone in the UK.

Food banks work tirelessly to support people in crisis, not only by providing them with emergency food supplies, but also by signposting them to other organisations who can help them work through other issues (for example, by offering debt management support). We will continue to support food banks to do this vital work in the short term, but ultimately this work shouldn’t be needed at all. No one should be forced to use a food bank because they can’t afford the essentials.

That’s why we’re also working to bring about a future in the UK where food banks are no longer needed. This is an ambitious goal, particularly as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to affect us all, but we know that change is possible.

Together, we are powerful and we can drive real change. We are working in partnership with many organisations to create the future we wish to see. Today, we’re excited to partner with UCL Engineering at a hackathon focused on food poverty run by University College London. This was supported by the Industry Exchange Network for Good, a working group of the National Framework of IXNs to bring industry and academia together and address the world’s most pressing challenges, offering a rapid route to innovation.

Students will complete a series of tasks and be invited to put forward solutions to improve food bank operations here and now, consider how technology could unblock the unintended barriers that our ‘digital first’ society places on many people, understand what is happening now and predict what will happen in the future around food bank use, and engage the public in new and innovative ways to help everyone understand the problem of poverty.

To create a UK without the need for food banks will require a combination of creativity, imagination, complete understanding of the whole problem, and technical expertise – as well as innovation and invention. We are excited to see what the students come up with!