As the coronavirus lockdown continues, food banks and charities have been on the frontline of a growing hunger crisis in the UK, with need for food aid soaring. In the first six months of the pandemic, food banks in the Trussell Trust network gave out a staggering 1.2 million emergency food parcels, supporting more than 700,000 people.
However, the charity is campaigning for a future where everyone can afford their own food. Its landmark study, State of Hunger
, revealed that 94% of people referred to food banks are officially destitute - their average weekly income is just £50 per week after housing costs.
Emma Revie, chief executive at the Trussell Trust, said: “Lack of adequate income is the key driver of food bank use. Food is not and can never be the long term solution to hunger. The only viable solution is to ensure people have enough money to be able to buy food in the first place. A key way to do this is to help people claim their full welfare entitlement.”
Every year in excess of £10bn of welfare payments go unclaimed. The Trussell Trust has run two pilots in recent years which provide high quality welfare advice free at the point of use and embedded within local food banks. The first project based in Tower Hamlets returned £4.2m to people in eight years and the second in Coventry, released £700,000 in 13 months.
Currently, only around 10% of the Trussell Trust’s church-based network of over 1200 food banks offer welfare advice, and the Income Maximisation project aims to increase that number to 50% within five years.
The £300,000 grant over three years from Benefact Trust will enable 20 more food banks to implement a high quality, accessible and freely available welfare advice service by December 2023, with the aim of releasing a million pounds to 10,000 people referred to food banks by December 2023. Volunteers at these food banks will also be trained in financial triage and familiarised with the welfare benefits application process.
Emma Revie added: “Grants to food banks will enable them to procure between 10 to 20 hours per week of specialist welfare advice, and our Financial Inclusion team will also offer a package of support, equipment and training. Our goal is to provide welfare advice to every person referred to a food bank while we work towards a hunger free future without the need for food banks entirely.”
In addition to providing funding support to the Income Maximisation project, Benefact Trust awarded a £100,000 emergency Covid response grant
to the Trussell Trust in April 2020 to support them to continue to offer expert, bespoke support to food banks across the UK and provide emergency food safely during the pandemic. This was part of a quarter of a million pounds funding package to help tackle increasing food poverty, with grants also being made to Feeding Britain
, Transforming Lives for Good (TLG)
Paul Playford, Grants Officer at Benefact Trust, said: “The Trussell Trust’s network of food banks have experienced unprecedented need during the pandemic, and they have been on the frontline of helping ensure that families do not go hungry. But they are also committed to a future where people do not reach crisis point in the first place.
“The ultimate aim of this initiative is to maximise people's income and in doing so, reduce their need to use a food bank again and provide greater financial resilience, preventing them falling into debt. We’re delighted to provide funding support to help them roll out this proven model to 20 more food banks in their church-based network, with the potential to have a positive impact on thousands of lives.”