Transforming compassion into action: how you can support food banks by campaigning for long-term change

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A blog post by
Emma Greenwood
Area Manager for South West England

One of the greatest privileges of my job is spending time with our amazing food bank teams. Living, breathing, walking embodiments of our key values of community, compassion, dignity and justice.

I spent yesterday morning with a small group of project managers. We were discussing what their roles entailed – the list of responsibilities went on and on and on.

Stock management, volunteer recruitment, volunteer management, health and safety, safeguarding, data protection, social media, external relations, donor relations, fundraising…

All that and the capacity to drop everything and deal with whatever issues are facing the people that arrive on their doorstep on any given day.

Handing out parcels of emergency food is part of what they do, but also advocating and signposting people to the support that is available. Spending time listening. Helping people join the dots of what support is available to them. Inviting often isolated people into community – making people aware of local social activities. Giving practical help. Small acts making a big difference.

In the face of rising numbers of people coming through their doors, what these project managers achieve is amazing.  Some are paid, others volunteer. These are the people that achieve the impossible – whatever they are faced with, they get the job done.

But it takes its toll.

Mentally, physically, emotionally.

An increase of 23% of food parcels given out across the network equals an increase of 23% on the demands of our volunteer base, on the time and energy they are devoting to make themselves available to those experiencing crisis.

It’s fantastic that across the country we have so many volunteers turning their compassion into action. Using their skills and life experience to help others. The truth is they shouldn’t have to be giving out emergency food parcels to people in increasing numbers.

Volunteers should not be bearing the mental, physical and emotional burden of supporting those who are driven through their doors when we know there are things that could reduce the amount of people needing their help.

Understandably the work they are involved in does not leave our food bank teams a lot of time to campaign for change. This is where you can play your part.

Become a Trussell Trust campaign supporter and join us in calling on the government to:

  • End the five week wait for Universal Credit
  • Make sure benefit payments cover the cost of living
  • Invest in local emergency support for people in crisis

Food banks should have no place in our society. We know that with your support #ThisCanChange

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My New Year’s Resolution? To use the voice I have to campaign for change

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A blog post by
Emma Greenwood
Area Manager for South West England

I’m reflecting on a busy week for the food banks I support across the South West.

I’m simultaneously saddened and angered by the increase of people coming through their doors; whilst in awe of the time and energy given by so many volunteers to cope with this increase in demand.  They must all be exhausted after probably their busiest Christmas ever – but still showing kindness and offering support to those in need.

People have been generous – warehouses are over-flowing with donations of food and its good to see financial donations coming in that ensure these organisations can continue to keep their doors open.  Thank you.

I’m often asked what people can do to support their local food banks – and yes, donations of food are really important.  Please get in touch with your food bank first to see what food they are most in need of – but hold off dropping anything off until January now as most are finding it a squeeze at the moment.

But do you also know else you can do?

Don’t accept that this is normal.  Continue to be shocked and saddened by the news of increased food bank use and think about how you can play a part in working towards a future where food banks are not needed.

We know hunger in the UK is not about lack of food.  It’s about people not having enough money.  And we know that things need to change.

Everyone can play a part and challenge the structural issues that lock people into poverty.

So, my New Year’s Resolution is going to rise to this challenge – to use the voice I have to campaign for change.

Who’s with me?

You can sign up as a campaigner or ask for a volunteer pack to help us end the need for food banks. We know that with your help, this can change. 

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What do party manifestos tell us about the way forwards after today’s election?

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As election day unfolds, I want to look at the direct impact food banks and our charity partners have had on the pledges political parties have made in the hope of securing votes today.

The impact of food banks’ collective voice on party manifestos is clear.

The Conservative party has confirmed they will end the benefits freeze and add safeguards to Universal Credit. The Labour and Liberal Democrat party manifestos both recognise the message of #5WeeksTooLong and promise an end to the five week wait for Universal Credit. The SNP manifesto promises to make up the losses in benefit payments caused by benefits freezes and cuts, while Plaid Cymru, the Green party and others talk about the need to make changes to our current benefits system.

We shouldn’t take this lightly. 

That widespread, cross-party recognition that our benefits system should be working to protect people from poverty is new. And it hasn’t happened by chance.

These pledges to make much-needed change are because we have worked together so closely with our network food banks and countless other charity partners over the last year, putting time, energy and resource into highlighting the reasons why people need food banks, and crucially, what changes would prevent people needing a food bank in the future.

Irrespective of who wins this General Election, we must continue to press forward. Elections are not just for Christmas after all!

These party manifestos are an indication of the difference we can make on people who have the highest level of decision-making power. We are already making a difference – poverty can be solved and you can help.

Join us as a campaigner today and make your voice heard.

This can change.

Emma Revie

Chief Executive  

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Bristol North West Foodbank: Asda Fight Hunger Create Change

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A key part of the Fight Hunger Create Change partnership between Asda, the Trussell Trust and FareShare is a grants programme for food banks in our network, providing crucial additional resources to increase the breath of services they can offer people to help prevent someone needing a food bank again in the future.

Emma Murray from Bristol North West Foodbank explains what their successful grant application has meant for people referred to the food bank…

About a year ago we took on the ambitious move to try and take on an advice worker ourselves at the food bank on a nine-month contract.

Immediately we started to see the huge positive impact it was having on people referred and we were thinking, why have we not done this before? We have to keep this person! So we applied for a large Fight Hunger Create Change grant through the Trussell Trust, because we wanted to really commit long term to having a more holistic approach as a food bank.

One example of the difference that’s been made is Jack’s experience*. When he came to the food bank, he’d been sleeping by the river for eighteen months in a tent in Bristol. We helped him with food, and he had a wash in our sinks, that sort of thing. He started turning up every Monday morning, and as we got our advice worker she was able to work with him and connect him up with the local support services at Shelter.

The whole process meant he was off the streets before winter and he quite literally said ‘I think I would have died if I had spent another winter out sleeping in a tent’.

The team there are now looking at putting him in more permanent location. For Jack, having someone right at that crisis point in a food bank centre, who had the expertise, connections and time to sit down and look at what support was needed, was totally life changing.

No one should need our food bank – Jack should never have been in that position in the first place. That’s why we’re part of the Trussell Trust network, working alongside other food banks to campaign for long-term changes that will bring us closer to a future where there’s no need for food banks.

But while that long-term work is underway, we want to do all we can in our community to make sure people like Jack can access the best possible help right now.

As a local charity, it would have been hard for us to make that leap to employ someone permanently to give advice, and now we’ve got that grant it’s kick started something and I think it should work for as long as that’s help is needed. So we’d really like to thank Asda and the Trussell Trust – having someone paid who is able to commit to providing that service in the food bank in the long-term is making a huge difference.

We work really hard to create a welcoming atmosphere in our centres, a space where someone can feel comfortable to tell us why they need a food bank, over a cup of tea or coffee. And now we have an advice worker across all of our four food bank centres, we know that we really can help somebody once they share something with us. Together, we can take those steps towards making sure they don’t need our help again.

*Jack’s name has been changed

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How corporate volunteers make a difference

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Pierrette, who works in finance for Delta Air Lines, has volunteered with the Trussell Trust multiple times as part of her workplace’s corporate volunteering programme. Here, she explains why she thinks it’s so important.

Volunteering opportunities are definitely part of Delta’s company culture – we’re encouraged to volunteer as much as we can, and I’ve volunteered with the Trussell Trust three times now.

Volunteering at the food bank is such a great experience. The people who work there are so lovely. They do a lot for their community every day and are so appreciative of any help they can get – it’s really humbling to see that. Hopefully, the work we did will be helpful to the food bank and the people they support.

I think it’s important to contribute to society, and I hope a lot of other people feel the same. I think we take a lot of what we have for granted, while there are so many people out there who need help and support, and it’s important to give our time back.

We all might find ourselves in a situation where we need extra help, so it’s important to make sure the system of support is there when someone needs it. And it starts with each of us finding the time to be there for each other.


Volunteers like Pierrette play a vital role in supporting people in crisis. Without them, the food banks in our network couldn’t provide the services they do and many thousands of people would go hungry.

If you’re interested in volunteering with the Trussell Trust, check out our volunteering pages now and get in touch. You could work in one of our offices or charity shops, sort food in a food bank warehouse, help out at a food bank, and much more.

We’re committed to ensuring that all of our volunteers feel welcomed, valued, and respected. We are hugely grateful to everyone who volunteers for the Trussell Trust and for the food banks in our network. Together, we are making great progress in the fight to end the need for food banks in the UK – and you can help too.

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Help end the need for food banks this Christmas

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Christmas is only a few weeks away. No doubt lots of people are already looking forward to the festive season, thinking about their Christmas dinner or what gifts to buy their families.

Christmas is supposed to be a time for joy and celebration – but for too many people it’s becoming increasingly difficult, with more people than ever expected to need to use a food bank during the festive period.

The food banks in our network work incredibly hard throughout the year to make sure that people in crisis get support. Christmas is often their busiest time, and you can help make sure that they have the supplies they need to meet this increased need.

Christmas is a time for giving and sharing – and having fun! Challenging yourself to some festive fundraising is a great way to get together with friends, family or colleagues and raise money for a great cause at the same time. Whatever your age, whatever you enjoy doing, there’s a way for you to help. Check out some of our fundraising ideas and make your Christmas even more special by supporting our work to help us end the need for food banks in the UK.

  1. Sign a Star This Christmas: Wish your friends and colleagues a Happy Christmas by signing on a star this Christmas with our special poster and donating to the Trussell Trust. Download the poster here.
  2. Hold an Elf auction: Be a helping hand for the day, morning, or afternoon, offer your services as a present wrapper, or auction a home-cooked meal.
  3. Christmas Angels: Ask your colleagues to bring in a photo of themselves as a baby and pay a small entry fee to join the competition to guess who these bundles of joy are now!
  4. Golden Cracker: If you’re heading out for a Christmas party, ask everyone to purchase a Christmas cracker. Put a special small gift in one of the crackers – no matter who gets the prize, everyone’s a winner as they’re all making a donation to the Trussell Trust.
  5. Desk decorating competition: Add some festive cheer to your office and have a little competition to see who can create the best winter wonderland at their desk.
  6. Secret Santa: Instead of spending £10 on a gift, why not limit your team’s purchases to £5 this year and donate the extra to the Trussell Trust?
  7. Cook up a (snow)storm: Whether it’s a gingerbread man competition, festive bake off, or mince pie madness, have fun while fundraising with a festive bake sale.

Once you’ve chosen your idea, plan your fundraiser – remember that Christmas is a busy time of year, so even the simplest activities might need some planning! Let people know about your event with posters in your office, social media posts, or personal invitations and then have fun!

When you’ve collected your money, you can pay it in at If you’d prefer, you can give us a ring on 01722 580 180, or post your check and any sponsorship forms you used.

You can also text ‘2019CHRISTMASCARD’ to 70450 to donate £2. This costs £2 plus a standard message rate. All donations sent through JustGiving or text come directly to us.

Need more inspiration, have a question, or simply want to find out more? Email [email protected] or call 01722 580 180. We’d love to see photos of your festive fundraisers so join #TeamTrussell on social media!

Whether you’re donating, fundraising, or taking part in an event, you’re helping us to continue our fight to end the need for food banks in the UK.

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Why does the Trussell Trust work with supermarkets?

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We work with food banks in thousands of communities across the UK – all providing vital help to people who would otherwise face hunger. No one should need a food bank, but while the rising tides of poverty continue to sweep people away, we will work with food banks to ensure people who need help can access emergency food and practical, compassionate support.

In order to provide that help while it’s needed, food banks need food donations. Many groups, including schools, churches, local businesses and other community groups, support their local food bank to ensure help is there for local people. We know individuals also want to make a difference in their community, and donating in a supermarket while doing a shop is one of the quickest, easiest ways for people to help.

By partnering with supermarkets at a national level, we’re able to harness more support for individual food banks at a local level while also raising awareness of our work to ensure the best possible help is available to people referred to a food bank. For example, where supermarket stores have permanent boxes installed, their customers can donate regularly, ensuring there’s a continual stream and variety of donated food to food banks in the network;  and the grants available to food banks thanks to our work with Asda have helped ensure the right help is there at the right time, by funding things like welfare advisors to sit in food bank centres and support people at the point of crisis.

Our work with supermarkets goes beyond practical support for people at food banks though.  We’ll always work to ensure that through our partnerships people referred to food banks are given the best possible support while that help is needed, but we will never compromise our mission to end the need for food banks.

Everything we do is underpinned by our work to challenge the structural issues that lock people into poverty. For example our partnership with Asda has already funded the first phase of State of Hunger, the most in-depth research to date into hunger in the UK. This research will act as a benchmark not just for us, but for government and wider society to better understand the structural issues that sweep so many people into poverty and destitution.

We think it’s important to be able to sit around a table with all of our partners, whether they’re a supermarket or another business, and have frank conversations driven by data and insight from our network about why people need food banks and how we can all work together to bring about change.

We know that most people (86%) forced to use a food bank are not in-work. However, we also have a duty to people who are in-work and struggling to afford the basics to understand what is driving the need for a food bank. We’re currently developing our work in this area, 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 talk with government, businesses and communities about why people need food banks, and how we can work together to change things for the better.

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.

It’s not right that 1.6 million emergency food parcels were given to people by food banks in our network last year. We know this can change – but we need everyone to play their part.

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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.

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State of Hunger 2019: what’s driving hunger in the UK?

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Dr Filip Sosenko from Heriot-Watt University explains how the team conducted the landmark report, State of Hunger 2019.

Commissioned by the Trussell Trust and building on the earlier work of Dr Rachel Loopstra and colleagues, the State of Hunger research project delivered its first annual report today.[1] Methodologically the most wide-ranging and robust inquiry into drivers of hunger in the country so far, this 3-year study is being carried out by a team from Heriot-Watt University who specialise in researching severe poverty.

From the start, the study has been designed to be about hunger rather than only about food bank use. We know that there are individuals and families who go hungry but who do not use food banks. Findings from year 1 of the project measured the size of the gap: between food insecurity and food bank use. Around 8-10% of households in the UK are estimated to have been as moderately or severely food insecure in recent years,[2] while 1-2% used a food bank in 2018/19.

The study found that people at risk of being food insecure – people who are on a low income, unemployed, living alone or as lone parents, renting, and in poor health – are also over-represented among food bank users. Importantly, while we found that being younger is a risk factor for food insecurity, young people are not over-represented among food bank users, suggesting that many young people do not access help from food banks even when they are short of food. As for households with children, around 11% of children under 16 live in food insecure households (that’s 1.4 million children) and around 36% of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks go to children.

The study has found that people at food banks have extremely low incomes, with average equivalised household income of just £7 per day after paying rent, and nearly all being destitute on a nationally recognised definition. This evidence counters claims by some public figures that people at food banks can manage perfectly well financially and choose to use food banks in order to take advantage of freely available food.

Crucially, the study has found evidence that food bank use is driven by the interaction of three factors: the structure of the benefit system, challenging life experiences (such as eviction or divorce) and lack of informal support. While the contribution of the benefit system in driving food bank use has already received much coverage, the study also provides more detail on the other two factors.

A comprehensive survey of over 1,100 people referred to Trussell Trust food banks revealed however that the vast majority of them experienced a challenging life event in the year prior to the survey, and/or lived in households affected by ill health. Both the statistical analysis of the survey results and qualitative interviews further showed that adverse life events and ill health have a potential to compromise one’s ability to do paid work, to claim benefits, or to increase living costs. The survey also found that the vast majority of people referred to food banks have either exhausted help from family or friends, had a resource-poor social network or were socially isolated.

The State of Hunger team’s statistical modelling indicated that the increased supply of food banks only partly explains the dramatic rise in the number of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust in the past eight years. Five benefit-related factors in particular have also been driving this demand: PIP assessments, ‘bedroom tax’, benefit sanctions, the roll-out of Universal Credit and the benefit freeze. In subsequent years of the study further insights on the specific factors driving demand may be gained as another year of data become available.

The study will continue to investigate the scale and nature of hunger in the UK for two more years, with the next major report scheduled for Autumn 2020.

You can read more about the findings at



[1] For details of the pilot study see Loopstra, R. & Lalor D. (2017) Financial insecurity, food insecurity, and disability, Online: The Trussell Trust.

[2] I.e. they reported not being able to afford a balanced diet, skipping meals, under-eating or going hungry in the 12 months before being asked. See Chapter 2 of the report.

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The five-week wait for Universal Credit is not fit for purpose in the private rented sector

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A blog post by
Jake McKey
Policy & Public Affairs Officer

As part of its campaign to reform Universal Credit, the National Landlords Association (NLA) is now working with the Trussell Trust to end the five-week wait.

Together, we’re issuing a stark warning to the Government that the policy is an unnecessary feature of a system pushing more and more families into debt and hunger, further damaging their chances of having a stable tenancy in the private rented sector (PRS).

Figures from the NLA highlight that arrears and debt are becoming part of the grim reality of private renting for Universal Credit tenants as 86 percent of landlords letting to tenants on Universal Credit experienced rent arrears in the last 12 months.

Not only is the frequency of rent arrears high, but our research has found that with such a high incidence, the average amount of rent arrears for tenants has progressively increased.

The average amount owed is now £2,105, but this increases dramatically for Universal Credit claimants, to £3,842.

When contrasted with the latest HomeLet rental index, which found the average UK rent now stands at £941, this means that Universal Credit tenants now owe on average over 4 months’ worth of rent arrears.

This far surpasses the minimum 2-month arrears for which tenants could be evicted under a section 8 notice for breach of contract. This is a situation in need of urgent change.

But the five-week wait and arrears are not the only factors for many landlords in the private rented sector.

Additional administrative failures and delays within the system compound the already lengthy five week wait, with the NLA having found some members dealing with tenants who have had to wait up to 12 weeks to receive payment.

In circumstances such as this, many claimants have no choice but to take out advances in order to support themselves, which leaves both landlords and tenants with no choice but to take on additional debt in order to cover their costs, resulting in a situation that works for no one.

Unsurprisingly, the resulting and enduring difficulties faced by both landlords and tenants have created a particularly negative culture change in the sector towards tenants receiving benefits.

With recent NLA research finding that only two in ten landlords would house tenants on Universal Credit, down from 35 percent in early 2013, and debt and poverty continuing a downward trajectory, the Government must take decisive action.

As well as the negative impact in a business sense, the five week wait and growing debt has the tangible human consequence of increased food bank usage and hunger.

Trussell Trust research shows a 52 percent average increase in food bank use in areas that have had Universal Credit for 12 months compared to 13percent in areas that have not. If hunger is to be ended in the UK, families must have enough money year-round and a vital component of this is resolving the longstanding issues within Universal Credit.

Together with the Trussell Trust, we’re calling on the Government to take action to create a system that works for tenants and landlords, including:

Ending the freeze on Housing Benefit rates. The lack of availability of social housing has meant many of the most vulnerable in society are seeking homes in the private rented sector, leaving them vulnerable to rising market rents with the level of benefits paid for housing frozen since 2016. This longstanding freeze has meant the housing element of Universal Credit is simply insufficient for many tenants to cover their rent, eating into costs for other essentials.

Tackling both intentional and unintentional delays and gaps in benefits. Alongside the built-in five-week wait, many administrative delays with processing claims further compound families’ ability to afford essentials. This has still not been treated as a priority by the Government and an inquiry into the internal workings of Universal Credit needs to be made in order to prevent further administrative delay.

This is why the NLA is joining the Trussell Trust and more than 40 other leading charities and organisations in supporting the #5WeeksTooLong campaign.

If the Government is serious about making Universal Credit a success and reversing the continuing negative trends born of poor policymaking and implementation, then it needs to take action and provide immediate relief for thousands of people and families across the UK by ending the five week wait for a first Universal Credit payment, the main driver of increased hunger and foodbank usage.

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