Pictured (L-R) is Carol Ervine (Choice Group Director of Tenant and Client Services), Jonny Currie (Trussell Trust Northern Ireland Network Lead) and Aidan McCrea (Choice Financial Inclusion Manager)
Choice Housing – one of Northern Ireland’s largest housing associations – has renewed its partnership with the Trussell Trust to support families dealing with financial hardship.
The £20,000 investment aims to distribute much-needed food parcels to over 1,100 low-income households across the province.
A recent report published by the Trussell Trust outlined that between 2021 and mid-2022, one in fourteen (7%) people in Northern Ireland received charitable food support. The report also outlined that an estimated 354,000 people (16%) in Northern Ireland faced hunger. Between April 2022 and March 2023, the charity provided 81,084 emergency food parcels – a 29% increase on the previous year which included 35,334 parcels for children.
Over the last five years, the rise in the need for food banks has been steeper in Northern Ireland than in any of the other part of the UK. Over the five years between 2017/18 and 2022/23, the number of parcels distributed by food banks in the Trussell Trust network increased by 141% in Northern Ireland, compared to a rise of 120% in the UK as a whole.
Carol Ervine – Choice Group Director of Tenant and Client Services – said:
“The Choice partnership with Trussell Trust has provided much-needed support for families across Northern Ireland who are struggling to afford the essentials of food, heat, and clothing. The cost of living is still very much a real issue for tenants and as a housing association we are providing a range of initiatives aimed at supporting those in need.
“This collaboration aims to provide food parcels to more than 1,100 households across the region and further complements existing Choice support such as our financial inclusion team who offer tenants expert guidance on available benefits, managing debt, and budgeting advice.”
According to recent figures released by the Department for Communities (DfC), in 2021/22, 16% of individuals – approximately 300,000 people – were estimated to be living in relative poverty compared to 17% in 2020/21. The percentage of individuals in absolute poverty in 2021/22 was 13% – approximately 249,000 people – compared to 12% in 2020/21.
There are currently 22 food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network in Northern Ireland, distributing parcels across 45 locations.
“The increase in the cost of essentials, including fuel and gas, has contributed to the increased need for food banks across Northern Ireland and whilst this uncertainty continues, the need for this support will remain. There is a need for a long-term solution to tackling poverty in Northern Ireland and Choice Housing is committed to engaging with all relevant stakeholders to make this a reality.”
Jonny Currie – Northern Ireland Network Lead from the Trussell Trust – said:
“Alongside the growth in need for food banks in Northern Ireland, we have seen the emergence of other forms of charitable food aid, often in the form of low-cost community food support such as social supermarkets which provide support for local families and individuals experiencing food poverty.
“Whilst our long-term ambition is to end the need for food banks across Northern Ireland and the UK as a whole, collaboration with organisations like Choice is vital in ensuring that the current demand is met.”
The partnership between Choice and Trussell Trust, which is now in its second year, saw an initial investment of £17,500 from Choice for the period 2021/22 with £20,000 allocated for the year 2022/23.