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The long read: Food banks have been busier than ever – but there’s still time for change this winter

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We’re starting a new series where our team deep-dive into what’s happening in food banks. To kick things off, Research Manager Tom Weekes breaks down what we’ve seen in the first six months of the pandemic, and what we’re expecting this winter.  

Yesterday we released figures showing that food banks in the Trussell Trust network have given out a record 2,600 food parcels a day to children since the start of the pandemic. Breaking it down further  a child needed support from a food bank every 34 seconds between April and September 

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The government has stepped up to provide vital local welfare – time to fix the national system too

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Ellie Thompson, Policy and Public Affairs Officer

In all the hubbub of a very busy news week last week, one exciting announcement that may have slipped under people’s radars was the creation of a new Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help people struggling to afford food and other essentials. The scheme will see £170m given to councils in England to spend on supporting people worst affected by the crisis between the start of December and the end of March 2021. This decision to provide funding for local welfare assistance is testament to the efforts of food banks, campaigners and charities across the country, who have all been calling for this vital support.

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The government has stepped up to provide vital local welfare – now’s the time to fix the holes in the national safety net too

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Ellie Thompson, Policy and Public Affairs Officer

In all the hubbub of a very busy news week last week, one exciting announcement that may have slipped under people’s radars was the creation of a new Covid Winter Grant Scheme to help people struggling to afford food and other essentials. The scheme will see £170m given to councils in England to spend on supporting people worst affected by the crisis between the start of December and the end of March 2021. This decision to provide funding for local welfare assistance is testament to the efforts of food banks, campaigners and charities across the country, who have all been calling for this vital support.

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The PM says no child will go hungry – our new report shows extending local welfare would be a good place to start

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Rory Weal, policy & public affairs manager:

The campaign led by Marcus Rashford to extend free school meals in England to cover the half term holidays, may have been rejected by the government – but it has not gone away. In fact, it has inspired a huge upsurge in generosity and demands for justice across the length and breadth of the country.

This recognition could not be more needed. At the Trussell Trust we support a network of 1,200 food banks centres across the UK, and we have long been aware of both the strength of the communities of this country and the dire economic circumstances too many families find themselves in.

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What do we spend donations on?

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The Trussell Trust is a charity which supports a network of 1,200 food bank centres across the UK to provide emergency support to people as we work together towards a future where everyone has enough food.  

We don’t spend donated money on food to give to people – the vast majority of food provided by food banks in our network is donated generously by members of the public.  

We’re working to end the need for food banks and while it’s not a simple task, it can be done. If we’re to reach a future where everyone can afford essentials, we need to do three things:  

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We need Government action to avoid record need for food banks this winter

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By Rory Weal, Policy & Public Affairs Manager

We can avoid the prospect of record need for food banks this winter – but only if the Government acts now.

Last week the Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, unveiled his ‘Winter Economy Plan’, designed to prepared the economy for the coming economic storm. This mini budget announced a range of measures, including a replacement for the furlough scheme – a new ‘jobs support scheme’ to subsidise the wages of people in work. Clearly, this is needed and welcome. But it begs the question – what about the millions of people who have already lost work or will do so over the coming months?

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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.

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Asda’s support helps get new volunteers into food banks

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Asda have been helping get new volunteers into food banks during the coronavirus pandemic by supporting the Trussell Trust with a digital volunteer system that connects volunteers to nearby food banks that need their support.

Volunteers are the bedrock of all the things food banks do – without volunteers, food banks wouldn’t be able to collect donations, ensure people who need support can get help, or campaign for long-term change to prevent people needing food banks in the future.

But when coronavirus struck, many food bank volunteers who were over 70 or had a health condition, needed to stay at home in line with government guidance. At exactly the same time, food banks were busier than ever before – with more and more people needing emergency support as the impact of the crisis hit how much money people had for essentials.

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Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation

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The Sodexo Stop Hunger Foundation has been supporting the Trussell Trust since 2017 and we’re hugely grateful for their long-term support. The foundation has generously been donating funds to support Coventry Foodbank, one of the largest food banks in the UK, for the past four years as well as supporting with nationwide volunteering and contributing to operating costs, and they’re supporting us once again with an additional donation of approximately £40,000 as we face the new challenges and increased level of need created by the coronavirus pandemic.

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Asda and Burngreave Foodbank’s volunteer heroes help people get food bank help safely during COVID-19

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Asda have been helping people who need food banks during the coronavirus pandemic by supporting the Trussell Trust to develop a digital system that makes sure anyone who needs a food bank, but is unable to leave their home, can still access vital support.

Every food bank in the Trussell Trust network works with a range of local organizations, like a housing association or local Citizens Advice, that refer people for emergency support. These organisations can assess whether someone is in need of a food bank and before the pandemic, they could provide people in-person with a paper voucher for the food bank.

But when coronavirus hit, some people needing support couldn’t leave their homes, and some local organisations which normally give paper vouchers couldn’t physically open safely.

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