THE number of people receiving emergency supplies from Trussell Trust foodbanks has more than quintupled since the coalition took power, according to figures released today.
Over the last financial year 346,992 people received three days’ worth of emergency food compared to 61,468 in 2010/11, a report by the charity said.
It warned the sheer volume of people needing help was a “wake-up call to the nation” and claimed the impact of welfare reforms that came into force this month have already sparked a fresh increase in numbers passing through their doors.
Of those helped over the last year 126,889 were children and most recipients were working-age families, according to the Christian charity.
Its research found 30 per cent of people helped were referred as a result of benefit delays and 15 per cent because of benefit changes.
Overall, the charity helped nearly 100,000 more people than it had anticipated.
Foodbank recipients are referred by doctors, social workers, schools liaison officers or advisers at the CAB and Jobcentre Plus.
The Trussell Trust said its figures “do not represent discreet individuals as some people will have experienced more than one crisis in a year” but added it was the charity’s policy to limit support to three crises annually unless there are extenuating circumstances.
Chris Mould, the charity’s executive chairman, said: “The sheer volume of people who are turning to foodbanks because they can’t afford food is a wake-up call to the nation that we cannot ignore the hunger on our doorstep.
“Politicians across the political spectrum urgently need to recognise the real extent of UK food poverty and create fresh policies that better address its underlying causes.
“This is more important than ever as the impact of the biggest reforms to the welfare state since it began start to take effect.
“Since April 1 we have already seen increasing numbers of people in crisis being sent to foodbanks with nowhere else to go.
“Last year The Trussell Trust estimated that our foodbanks would help 250,000 people in 2012-13, we’ve helped 100,000 more than that. 2012-13 was much tougher for people than many anticipated.
“Incomes are being squeezed to breaking point. We’re seeing people from all kinds of backgrounds turning to foodbanks: working people coming in on their lunch-breaks, mums who are going hungry to feed their children, people whose benefits have been delayed and people who are struggling to find enough work. It’s shocking that people are going hungry in 21st century Britain.”
Foodboxes contain at least three days’ supply of non-perishable foods such as tinned fruit, vegetables, meat, tea and pasta.
Oxfam’s Director of UK Poverty, Chris Johnes, said: “These shocking figures show that a perfect storm of spiralling living costs, lack of decent, secure jobs and benefit changes are making it impossible for many people to feed themselves or their families. It’s clear there is a massive hole in the safety net when so many more people are being forced to rely on emergency food handouts.
“We are worried this could be just the tip of the iceberg as changes to the welfare system already in the pipeline could rip apart the safety net with devastating consequences for those who rely on it.
“The Government cannot ignore this situation any longer. Instead of taking money from people who can’t feed themselves, the Government should be targeting companies and wealthy individuals who are dodging the taxes which are their fair contribution to our society.”