Cost of living emergency drives ‘tsunami of need’ to food banks in Northern Ireland
New figures released today by the Trussell Trust reveal that almost 31,700 emergency food parcels were provided to people from April until September this year by food banks in the charity’s Northern Ireland network and almost 13,400 of these went to children.
Overall, that’s a quarter more than were provided during the same period in 2021 and a shocking 194% increase compared to five years ago.
The Trussell Trust, which supports 45 food bank centres in Northern Ireland, says the cost of living emergency has created a ‘tsunami of need’, as people struggle to survive amidst the soaring costs of living.
With need outstripping donations for the first time in its history, the charity has been forced to launch an emergency appeal to ensure that food banks can meet the alarming level of need in their communities.
Between April - September, 10,000 people have been forced to turn to a food bank in the Trussell Trust NI network for the first time which represents a 37% increase compared to 2021.
The charity warns that food banks are at ‘breaking point’, both physically and mentally, and are set to face the hardest winter yet as they expect to provide more than 7,000 emergency food parcels a day on average across the UK in the next six months.
Furthermore, new research to be released by the charity next year, finds that one in five people referred to a food bank in the Trussell Trust UK network are in working households. The charity says that food banks are seeing more and more people who are working, but still can’t afford the essentials.
The Trussell Trust is calling on the UK government to act decisively in next week’s Budget. Over the last few years, the charity’s network of food banks has seen how the right support, at the right time, can help people out of hardship. Most recently, the government’s targeted support to people on the lowest incomes via July’s Cost of Living Payment correlated with a small dip in need at food banks. However, the charity warns that short-term interventions are neither sustainable for government nor dignified for people who are struggling, and they don’t solve the longer-term problem of people having to rely on food banks.
Jonny Currie, network lead for NI at the Trussell Trust, said:
“Everyone in Northern Ireland should be able to afford the essentials - to buy their own food and heat their homes. Yet, people coming to food banks are telling us they are unable to turn the heating on and are skipping meals so they can feed their children.
"These new statistics show that, even in summer months, people are struggling to afford the essentials and we are expect that this winter will be the hardest yet for food banks and the people they support. This is not right. This is not right.
“We know that with the right support and a stable and sufficient income, people don’t need to turn to food banks for support. Over the last few years, the government has acted to protect people who are struggling, and this action has had made a difference. They must now act again: with swift support now to help people through the winter, and with vision for the longer-term to ensure that social security is always enough to weather challenging times.
“We are calling for the urgent restoration of the NI Executive and Assembly to deliver the policies that people in Northern Ireland need, as we forecast our busiest year yet. We need a Northern Ireland Executive in place to provide the policies that will protect communities this winter.
"A functioning NI Executive should reinstate the £20 uplift to UC and extend it to legacy benefits, as well as remove the two-child limit for UC and child tax credit and ensure a one-off payment of £500 to people entitled to disability benefits or carers allowance.”
If you are in a position to donate, you can support the Trussell Trust’s Emergency Appeal by donating vital funds to help the charity supporting food banks this winter.