A staggering 20 million meals were donated to hungry Britons living in food poverty in the past 12 months – and the charities who have handed them have branded it a “national disgrace”, blaming a perfect storm partly caused by changes to the benefit system.
A new report published today reveals that the number of donated meals has 54% on the previous 12 months. The meals were given to people in the UK who could not afford to feed themselves.
Compiled by Oxfam, Church Action on Poverty and The Trussell Trust, the Below The Breadline report also reveals that there has been a significant rise in the number of people turning to food banks in affluent areas: in some areas the numbers of users have trebled in a short space of time.
The report’s authors say the massive rise in meals handed out by food banks and food aid charities is a damning indictment of an increasingly unequal Britain where five families have the same wealth as the poorest 20 per cent of the population.
And the charities feel that a large factor in the rise in UK poverty lies in the Coalition Government’s changes to the social security system.
Mark Goldring, Oxfam Chief Executive, said: “Food banks provide invaluable support for families on the breadline but the fact they are needed in 21st Century Britain is a stain on our national conscience. Why is the Government not looking into this?”
The report details how a perfect storm of changes to the social security system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages, insecure and zero-hours contracts and rising food and energy prices are all contributing to the increasing numbers of meals handed out by food banks and other charities.
Food prices have increased by 43.5 per cent in the past 8 years. During the same time the poorest 20 per cent have seen their disposable income fall by £936 a year.
Chris Mould, Chairman of The Trussell Trust said: “Trussell Trust food banks alone gave three days’ food to over 300,000 children last year. Below the Breadline reminds us that Trussell Trust figures are just the tip of the iceberg of UK food poverty, which is a national disgrace.
“Trussell Trust food banks are seeing parents skipping meals to feed their children and significant repercussions of food poverty on physical and mental health. Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.”
The report will feature on tonight’s Dispatches, to be broadcast at 7.30pm on Channel 4. The documentary, Breadline Kids, will follow three families in their daily lives as they struggle to feed themselves.
Below The Breadline can be downloaded from Oxfam’s website.