Research finds a link between benefit reforms and visits to food banks

A report published this week has found a direct link between a surge in demand for food banks and government welfare reforms. The most common reasons for people visiting food banks were found to be due to cuts and changes made to the welfare system.

The extensive study involved the Church of England, the Trussell Trust food bank network, Oxfam and Child Poverty Action Group, and found there to be an increasing reliance on charities to fill the gaps that have been left in the welfare system, and inadequate support for struggling families.

Food banks have seen a huge increase in visitors in the last few years; there are 3 times as many people using food banks compared to last year – 913,138 people visited in the year 2013 – 2014, including 330,205 children. The Trussell Trust warns that these numbers likely show a fraction of the total number of people who are experiencing food insecurity. Visitors include working people and families, who are often in low paid or insecure jobs.

Social care groups will refer clients to food banks using a voucher system; vouchers are then exchanged for 3 days food at a Distribution Point. As well as food parcels, volunteers at the food banks also provide support for visitors, and direct them towards other services they may need.

Ruth Fox, the voluntary manager of a food bank in Redcar, discussed her experiences with the Guardian newspaper in 2013. She said that half of the people who are referred to the food bank have delayed benefits, and that others are struggling with debt, low income, or are victims of domestic abuse. She also mentioned that she was shocked to discover that people had walked up to 10 miles to reach the food bank, and saw this as evidence of desperation.

Redcar food bank has seen a surge in visitors recently; after opening in January 2013 it was realised that many more were needed in the area to cope with demand. They emphasise that non-perishable food and volunteers are required, and have an active Facebook page which they update with particular items they need and the location of drop-off points.

For information about local food banks and where you can donate visit:

Redcar Foodbank

Middlesbrough Foodbank

King’s Foodstore Darlington



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