Five ways the cost of living crisis is impacting food banks

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The cost of living is leading to increased need and rising costs for food banks. Here are five ways that food banks are being impacted:

Increased need

The sharp rise in the cost of energy, food and other essentials, alongside the £20 cut to universal credit in October 2021, has meant that between April 2021 and March 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust network provided more than 2.1 million parcels to people facing financial hardship.

This is the first time since the height of the pandemic that food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network have provided more than 2 million parcels.

As the cost of living continues to soar, food bank managers in our network are warning of an accelerated crisis across the UK, with more families being forced to the doors of food banks in need of emergency food.

One food bank manager commented: “The people who come in are telling me they’re scared. People are beside themselves about what the next six months will bring.”

Needing to purchase food

Our supporters continue to generously donate so our network can continue supporting people facing hardship, but these donations are not currently keeping pace with the increased need. This means that food banks are having to purchase food and other essentials to supplement what would usually be provided by donations. With the rising cost of food, this will place an increased financial toll on individual food banks.

“Due to the escalating need for emergency food parcels in our region, we have been spending up to £1,000 a week to buy food to make up for the shortfall in essential items for our food parcels. Whilst kind donations of food continue, in order to meet the increase in demand we will have to purchase even more and, with grocery prices spiralling, this is going to cost the food bank.” Lorraine Schulze, Project Manager Medway Foodbank

Find out how to donate to your local foodbank

Increased running costs

Food banks will also need to meet the rising costs of energy and fuel bills which keep warehouses, vehicles and distribution centres running.

“Our running costs to heat and light our warehouses and distribution centres have increased, along with fuel costs to run our vans used to deliver food parcels.” Kathleen Neilly, West Lothian Foodbank, General Manager

Need for cold food packs

As people feel the impact of the cost of living crisis and look to make savings, food banks are seeing an increase in need for ‘cold food packs.’ This is food that can be eaten without the need for high-energy and high-cost appliances.

“We are having more and more people come to us to say that although they have a cooker or fridge that they are not turning them on as they do not have the money for the meter and so are requesting items to eat that need no cooking at all.” Pete Criddle, Trustee and Volunteer Bradford North Foodbank

Extended opening hours

As everyone feels the squeeze of the cost of living crisis, more food banks are seeing an increase in people in work coming to their doors. Because of this, food banks are needing to change or extend their opening hours so people can pick up an emergency food parcel on their way to or from work.

“We have to open our food bank earlier in the day at 8am so working people can pick up their parcels on the way to work. Although we have a large proportion of people referred to us who are on benefits, we are seeing more and more people who are working, but whose wages have not increased in line with the rise in the cost of food, fuel and other items needed for a basic living standard.” Gill Fourie, Operational Manager Blackburn Foodbank

How you can help

Staff and volunteers at food banks are working tirelessly to support people in their communities as the price of essentials continues to soar and need for emergency food parcels and support increases. Donate to your local food bank now.

No-one should have to turn to a charity for something as essential as food. If people are to have enough money to live with dignity, we need our social security system strengthened so that it acts as an effective lifeline for whenever any of us need support.

If you agree everyone in our community should be able to afford life’s essentials, join our campaign which asks MPs to call for a stronger social security system that supports people every day, not just in times of national crisis.

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Five reasons to share your experiences of food and cash support across the UK with the APPG inquiry

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By Georgia Kenington, Public Affairs Assistant at the Trussell Trust 

The All Party Parliamentary Group on Ending the Need for Food Banks is undertaking a landmark inquiry to explore the most effective and dignified solutions to tackle the growing need for food banks across the UK and needs to hear from people with experience, knowledge, or informed opinions on the issues that the inquiry is looking into.

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Four ways to the end the need for emergency food in Northern Ireland

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By Jonny Currie, Northern Ireland Network Lead at the Trussell Trust

The upcoming Northern Ireland Assembly elections on 5 May are a crucial opportunity to ask prospective Members of the Legislative Assembly (MLAs) to commit to measures that will end the need for emergency food in Northern Ireland. 


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Six reasons we’re excited about our new partnership with Deliveroo

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By Penny Russell, New Partnerships Manager at the Trussell Trust

The food banks in our network gave out over 2.5 million emergency food parcels to people facing hardship last year. Nearly a million of these were given to children.  

Our new partnership with Deliveroo comes at the right time; as the cost of living continues to soar, the funds raised by the partnership will help the food banks in our network continue to provide the compassionate, practical support they do so well.  


How does the partnership help us work towards a future without the need for food banks? 

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Five Things You Should Know About Universal Credit

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By Anna Hughes, Policy Officer

The benefits system, Universal Credit, was introduced in 2013 with the intention to help people on the lowest income in the UK. As food and energy prices soar, it is now vital that Universal Credit is increased with the cost of living, to prevent more people from being pushed towards food banks.  

However in March, the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, was widely criticised for failing to utilise Universal Credit in his response to the cost of living crisis in his Spring Statement. 

So, what exactly is Universal Credit? What are the problems with it? And what changes are we calling for the Chancellor to make to ensure the system gives people enough to afford the essentials?  

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Four things that we learnt from working alongside people with experience of being in debt to government – and how to fix the system

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“At the food bank – they’re absolutely brilliant, [but] they shouldn’t have to exist… government and organisations are relying on them too much, they pass the buck to volunteers.” – Tim

What is ‘government debt’?

As the nation faces a cost-of-living crisis and recovers from the devastating effects of the pandemic, new research shows people who cannot afford the essentials are being pushed deeper into poverty by a rising tide of government debt.

This debt can take many forms, including paying back Advance Payments given to people on Universal Credit to cover the five-week wait for their first benefit payment, paying back council tax debt to local authorities, repaying benefit overpayments, and more. Sometimes some of these are referred to as deductions from benefits, but here we are primarily calling them debt.

Nearly half of people referred to food banks in the Trussell Trust network are in debt to the DWP (Department for Work and Pensions – the department responsible for social security).

People who have experience of being in debt to government have been working closely with the Trussell Trust and Humankind Research, to develop ideas for what a fairer repayment system might look like.

Here are four key things we’ve learnt:

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Dignity through language

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By Janet Homan, volunteer 

The food banks in the Trussell Trust Network work hard to ensure that their services are accessible to everyone in their community. Language should never be a barrier to receiving support when it is needed. Over the summer, a group of volunteers got together to improve the number of resources available to people for whom English isn’t their native language. 

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