Food banks in England are facing growing demand as the country experiences its highest inflation in 30 years.
The organizations fear that the situation will worsen in the coming months.
According to one of Britain’s largest food bank networks, the Trussel Trust, a record 2.5 million parcels were delivered to people in crisis last year alone, and since 2015, the number of people needing help to obtain food has increased every year.
Between 2020 and 2021, there was even a 33% increase and the Trussel Trust claims that 980,000 of those in need were children.
Nestled amid big box stores in a retail park, the Colchester Foodbank in the east of England delivered a total of 165 tonnes of food last year, enough to feed 17,000 people.
But that could be exceeded this year, as British annual inflation hit 5.4% in December, accompanied by falling real wages and rising food and energy costs.
“We think we’re likely to feed 20,000 people by 2022,” said food bank manager Mike Beckett. “If there is a slowdown and things get worse, it could be up to 25,000 people.
“That’s certainly a bit of a nightmare. Our worst case scenario is maybe 30,000 people.”
Around 95% of the food bank’s produce, run by the Trussell Trust, comes from members of the public who donate at local supermarket collection points.
But the current economic climate has forced many who would not normally need food packages to seek help.
“Normally I put something in the food bank cart, but now it’s my turn to need help,” said Heidi, 45, who said she was struggling with price increases on “just everything.”
“Basically, I’m wrestling big time. The bills have gotten very high, that’s why I’m here.”
Like many in Britain this winter, you’ll have to make the difficult choice between ‘heat or eat’.
“My electricity is going up. I’m spending probably around £80 (€95) a month now, compared to £40 or £50 last year,” he explained.
The trust says the number of people receiving three days’ worth of emergency food from its centers in Britain has risen from around 26,000 in 2009 to more than 2.5 million in 2021.
British food writer and anti-poverty campaigner Jack Monroe noted after the latest spike in inflation this week that the real cost of many staple foods has risen much higher.
The cheapest pasta in your local supermarket a year ago was £0.29 (€0.35) per 500 grams (around £1), while today it is £0.70 (€0.84), an increase of 141%.
The cheapest rice was £0.45 (€0.54) for 1 kilo, but now it costs £1.00 (€1.19) for 500g.
“That’s a 344% price increase that affects the poorest and most vulnerable households,” he wrote in a viral Twitter thread read by millions.
“The system by which we measure the impact of inflation is fundamentally flawed – it completely ignores reality and the REAL price goes up for people on minimum wages, zero hour contracts, food bank customers and millions more.”
Beckett agreed that “however you measure inflation, it doesn’t really take into account the rise in cheap food, and it’s rising by hundreds of percent.”
Low-income families are under additional pressure after the government returned welfare payments to pre-pandemic levels, having temporarily increased them during lockdowns.
Beckett added that in 2020, “an excellent year,” 42% of food bank clients were children.
“People come in and report that it took them 20 minutes or an hour in their car to work up the courage to go in,” he said.
“They didn’t think they would ever need it, they don’t want to use the food bank, but they don’t have a choice because they love their kids.”
“The question is, when things are cold, people have to choose between eating or warming up.”
Chronic health problems such as asthma and depression.
In a report released this month, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation noted that “for children, severe food insecurity has been linked to chronic illnesses such as asthma and depression.”
A poor diet “impedes a child’s physical, cognitive and emotional development. Adults in food insecure households have a higher rate of developing chronic diseases such as arthritis, asthma, diabetes and mental health problems,” said the UK poverty report 2022.
The anti-poverty charity noted “key design features of the social security system that lead directly to increased food insecurity and have contributed to the increased use of food banks”.
They include having to wait a minimum of five weeks before receiving initial benefit payments like Universal Credit.
Others point to the fact that child benefits are capped at two children.
The cost of living in Britain is forecast to rise further in April due to a tax increase and further planned increases of around 50% in household energy bills.
The most painful tax increases are expected to pay the big COVID-19 bill.
As a result, even more households in Britain will face fuel poverty, spending more than 10% of their total income on fuel.
“There are a lot of people in this situation who have never been in it before,” revealed Heidi, a customer at the food bank.
“Everyone should put something in the collection point.) Because you never know when you’re going to be in this situation. And I certainly didn’t think I would be in it.”
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism