Surge in food parcel deliveries as cost of living crisis deepens

A ‘tsunami of need’ has seen deliveries of food parcels surge in the capital as the cost of living crisis pushes Londoners further into poverty. 

Figures provided by the Trussell Trust, which operates the UK’s largest food bank network, reveal more than 223,000 food parcels were distributed to Londoners between 2021-22, an increase of 46% compared to 2020-21. 

It comes amid warnings from the charity that food banks across the country will face their hardest winter yet as it prepares to provide a predicted 1.3 million emergency food parcels in the next six months, as part of an emergency appeal designed to meet surging demand.

Trussell Trust CEO, Emma Revie, said: “Faced with the perfect storm of rising energy prices, inflation and a potential recession that is pushing people deeper into poverty, the soaring cost of living is driving a tsunami of need to food banks.

“Through this emergency appeal we hope to raise the vital funds required to ensure that food banks can meet this devastating rise in need and continue to support people who are experiencing hardship. 

“We never wanted to run an appeal like this, we would rather there was no need for food banks at all, but right now they are on the frontline of this cost of living emergency, we have no other option.

“As well as raising vital funds, we hope our emergency appeal is a stark reminder of how reliant we have become as a society on the kindness of volunteers. 

“No one should need to turn to charity for something as essential as food and the situation we are facing is too great for food banks to solve alone.”

More than one and a half million emergency food parcels have been distributed in the capital since 2016, with 423,263 delivered in 2020-21 alone, more than double the amount given to Londoners in 2019-20. 

Accounting for more than half of the overall figure, nearly a million emergency food parcels were handed out to adults unable to afford basic supplies, which this year include additional products such as blankets and other non-perishable items. 

The number of food parcels handed to children has also increased, with more than 106,000 distributed in 2020-21, a 41% increase on the 74,940 parcels provided to youngsters struggling to afford essentials in 2019-20.

Source: Trussell Trust

Ealing Foodbank Interim Manager, Jeremy Hyde, said: “In the first six months of this year, we provided food for 35% more clients than in the equivalent period 12 months ago. 

“Not only are we providing more food to more people but as some of our donors are also affected by the cost of living crisis it means that our food donations are going down, so currently about one in five of the parcels we give out we’ve had to purchase food for. 

“One of the things we are doing is trying to look at people who have used the food bank most frequently in the last six months to see if there are other forms of help we could provide them with.

“To help adapt to the current crisis, we’re investing in debt counsellors to help people fill in forms and navigate financial barriers. It’s very much our aim to no longer need to exist.

“That probably won’t happen in my lifetime, but that’s the direction of travel we’re trying to aim towards and so we’re investing in resources to ensure some of our clients no longer need to come to us because they’ve sorted their finances out.”

The boroughs of Lambeth, Greenwich, Ealing, Hammersmith & Fulham and Wandsworth account for nearly a third of the total food parcels distributed, with 92,076 packages handed out in 2021-22 alone. 

The figures, which relate only to the Trussell Trust network, are the tip of the iceberg, with more than 1,700 independent food banks identified by the Independent Food Aid Network in addition to centres operated by the Salvation Army and school-based food banks. 

Wandsworth Foodbank Advocacy and Communications Manager, Sarah Chapman, said: “Cost of living pressures are hitting local people on incomes very hard, and so we’re seeing increasing numbers of people whose income doesn’t cover the cost of food, bills and other essentials using our food bank. 

“In fact this September and October has been the busiest September and October in our nearly ten-year history – with higher levels of need than even during the same months in the pandemic. 

“Our food bank welcome centres are busy, but we’re blessed with a great team of volunteers across the borough who work so hard to welcome and support local people referred to us in hardship.

“Because we’re based at local churches across the borough, we’re again very blessed that these churches, and one community centre, are committed to staying open and providing food bank welcome centres for local people in hardship, despite rising energy costs.

“As well as providing emergency food, our Foodbank Advice Project partnership with Citizens Advice Wandsworth continues to provide much needed support to help people maximise their income.

“We’ve also launched a new Warmer Winter Appeal to turn people’s financial donations into £49 gas and electricity top-up vouchers for prepayment meters for people and families at the food bank.”

Find out more about the appeal here.

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