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'National disgrace': Half a million Britons using food banks

31 May 2013

Half a million people in the UK are now using food banks, according to a report by Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam.

The organisations blame benefit cuts, unemployment and the increased cost of living, adding that the UK is now facing ‘destitution, hardship and hunger on a large scale’.

The report was backed by the Trussell Trust, the UK's single biggest organiser of food banks. Previously the Trust stated that in 2011-12 the number of people who received at least three days' emergency food was around 130,000. Their own informational material reported that in 2012-13, ‘food banks fed 346,992 people nationwide’, and of those who received help, ‘126,889 were children’. However, the new study says that the actual number could be more than 500,000, recommending that the Government improves monitoring and recording of data on food poverty.

The report states: "Up to half of all people turning to food banks are doing so as a direct result of having benefit payments delayed, reduced, or withdrawn altogether. Changes to the benefit system are the most common reasons for people using food banks." It describes the amount of food poverty in the UK a ‘national disgrace’, urging a parliamentary inquiry into the way changes in the benefits system have affected food poverty.

It also calls on the Government to raise the minimum wage and benefits in line with inflation, but warns that the current cuts and the introduction of the universal credit system will lead to more people turning to food banks.

Church Action on Poverty CEO, Niall Cooper, said: "The safety net that was there to protect people is being eroded to such an extent that we are seeing a rise in hunger. Food banks are not designed to, and should not, replace the 'normal' safety net provided by the state in the form of welfare support."

Mary Creagh MP, Labour's Shadow Environment Secretary, added: "The UK is the seventh richest country in the world, yet we face a growing epidemic of hidden hunger with people increasingly unable to meet their family's basic needs. These shocking figures show the extent of poverty in the UK with half a million people now relying on emergency food parcels for help."


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