Over 39,300 food parcels distributed in Northern Ireland between April and September - the most ever recorded and the largest increase in the UK
and live on Freeview channel 276
This is also the most parcels that the network has ever distributed at this point in the year and represents a 23% increase from the same period in 2022. It is also a greater increase than in the whole of the UK.
Low incomes, especially from social security, debt, health conditions and issues with social security payments such as delays or sanctions were the main reasons people were left with no option but to turn to a food bank for help.
A record 16,659 food parcels were provided for 8,409 children living in families who could not afford the essentials. This is an 24% increase compared to the same period last year, reflecting the continuing rise in need for the support provided by food banks. Families with children are also likely to have been affected by the ending of the School Holiday Food Grant scheme from April 2023, which provided a payment during school holiday periods to support the provision of nutritious meals to children and young people who are entitled to free school meals.
The new data also revealed that 73% of all the parcels provided by food banks in the Trussell Trust network between April and September this year were for families with children.
Furthermore, the charity has reported that an alarming 9,986 people have needed to use a food bank for the first time in the past six months, warning that food banks are at ‘breaking point’ as more and more people in communities across Scotland find themselves unable afford the essentials.
The Trussell Trust believes that the situation is unlikely to change in the coming months with this stark new data leading them to forecast that food banks in their network will distribute more than a million emergency food parcels across the UK between December 2023 and February 2024 the equivalent of providing a parcel every eight seconds this winter.
Lynsey Agnew, manager at Lisburn food bank, said: “So far in 2023 we have been seeing a 23% increase in demand for our services. On an almost daily basis we are serving people who are upset and embarrassed saying they used to donate to us and never thought they would need us but with mortgage rate rises, huge hikes in private rent costs, and the overall jump in cost of living those who lived comfortably this time last year just don’t have enough to make it to the end of the month. This week alone has seen a huge increase in the number of service users coming through our door with the drop in temperature, people are very concerned at how they will manage now that the heating has had to be turned back on.
“The number of donations we have received has stayed the same, but our demand is now outstripping what is coming in and for the first time we have seen a drop year on year of our stock levels.”
Jonnie Currie, national lead at the Trussell Trust in Northern Ireland, continued: “These statistics are extremely alarming. An increasing number of children in Northern Ireland are growing up in families facing hunger, forced to turn to food banks to survive. A generation is growing up believing that it’s normal to see a food bank in every community. This is not right.
“Rising hunger and hardship have devastating consequences for individuals and our communities, damage health and hold back our economy. People in work, as well as people who cannot work, are increasingly being pushed into debt and forced to turn to a food bank to survive.
“We urgently need the Northern Ireland Executive restored so it can utilise its devolved powers to prioritise policies that will protect people from poverty, such as the full implementation of recommendations from the reviews of welfare mitigations and discretionary support, and the delivery of an anti-poverty strategy.
“We are also calling on the UK Government to urgently confirm in the Autumn Statement that benefits will rise in line with inflation next April, and to reduce the burden of debt deductions which drive unacceptable levels of hardship.”
The Trussell Trust is encouraging people to show their support for people facing hardship by signing a petition urging UK political party leaders to support the introduction of an Essentials Guarantee to ensure that the basic rate of University Credit at least covers life’s essentials, such as food and bills.