Why Do We Need Food Banks?
In short, the vast disparity of wealth distribution in the UK leaves a staggering amount of the population in poverty, struggling to meet the basic requirements of life. Food Banks provide relief and assistance by covering at least one of these requirements, as well as offering further support.
To illustrate the extent of this disparity, let’s consider the opposite ends of the wealth spectrum…
The Wealthiest 0.000009%
Figure based on the latest population count from ONS 2019 (Coates et al.)
It’s Christmas, a time of giving, which raises the question of what do you give to someone who has everything? Well, love and adoration, of course! So, a massive congratulations to Gopichand and Srichand Hinduja, Sir Jim Ratcliffe, Michael Platt, and David and Simon Reuben; the UK’s top 6 Wealthiest people with a combined and, of course, totally well-deserved and morally sound fortune of £39.4 billion. A sum that equates to the combined wealth of the UK’s poorest 13.2 million inhabitants (Neate). Good ‘ole capitalism eh!
The Poorest 22%
According to the 2019 Measuring Poverty report from the Social Metrics Commission, an estimated 14.3 million people in the UK are living in poverty; this equates to roughly 22% of the population. In terms of age, children (I.e. those under the age of 18) are the group most likely to be in poverty with 34% of the UK’s children living in poverty. One may argue that poverty is a subjective term so, to clarify, the Social Metrics Commission defines poverty as ‘the experience of having insufficient resources to meet needs’ (Stroud, 14).
So, why do we need Food Banks? Well, it’s because the rich are hoarding the wealth like Tolkein’s dragons whilst the poor are dying thanks to our government’s austerity measures (Helm).
How do Food Banks work?
A research report from the House of Commons recently found that there were at least 2000 Food Banks operating in the UK. The majority of these are led and operated by the Trussell Trust with over 1200 locations. The remaining 800 + are operated independently (Tyler, 5). Each of these will operate slightly differently, however, the overarching aim is to “end hunger and poverty in the UK”. No small task…
On a more specific basis, Food Banks operate in four main steps:
- Food is Donated: Food is collected from a variety of organisations and individuals, including churches, businesses, and schools.
- Food is Sorted and Stored: Over the UK, 40,000 volunteers sort through the donated food to make sure it’s in date and store it ready for the Food Banks.
- Professionals Identify People in Need: The Trussell Trust works with a variety of professionals in the best place to help people in crisis, including doctors, teachers, and social workers. They can then provide Food Bank vouchers to those they deem in need.
- Clients Receive Food: The vouchers can then be taken to any Food Bank centre where this can be redeemed for three days’ worth of nutritional food. A number of volunteers work in the Food Banks welcoming visitors and offering further support to try and help them out of the situation they find themselves in.
(What We Do, Trussell Trust)
The need for Food Banks has hit its highest point since the charity began. The 6-month period between April and September 2019, was the busiest on record for Trussell Trust Food Banks with a total of 823,145 parcels being provided to those in need. This is an increase of over 150,000 parcels compared to this time last year (Mid-Year Stats, Trussell Trust).
What Needs to Change?
The UK is the fifth richest country in the world, with a nominal GDP of 2.83 trillion USD (Silver). Yet, 22% of the population is living in poverty with hundreds of thousands relying on Food Banks each year just to eat. Clearly, this is unacceptable and needs to change. So, how do we do this?
Well, according to the Trussell Trust, the first steps needed to take us towards a future where no one ever needs to rely on a food bank are:
- Ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit
- Ensuring benefit payments cover the cost of living
- Investing in local emergency support for people in crisis
Trussell Trust, amongst others, are pressuring the government to make these changes and improve the lives of thousands. If you wish to learn more or make a donation to the Trussell Trust, you can do so here: https://www.trusselltrust.org/
“How Food Banks Work — The Trussell Trust”. The Trussell Trust, 2019, https://www.trusselltrust.org/what-we-do/how-foodbanks-work/. Accessed 22 Dec 2019.
Coates, Sarah et al. “Overview Of The UK Population: August 2019”. Ons.Gov.Uk, 2019, https://www.ons.gov.uk/peoplepopulationandcommunity/populationandmigration/populationestimates/articles/overviewoftheukpopulation/august2019. Accessed 22 Dec 2019.
Collamer, Matt. Man Holding Card With Seeking Human Kindness Text. 2018, https://unsplash.com/photos/8UG90AYPDW4/info. Accessed 23 Dec 2019.
Neate, Rupert. “UK’s Six Richest People Control As Much Wealth As Poorest 13M — Study”. The Guardian, 2019, https://www.theguardian.com/news/2019/dec/03/uk-six-richest-people-control-as-much-wealth-as-poorest-13m-study#maincontent. Accessed 22 Dec 2019.
Oakley, Matthew. Measuring Poverty 2019 Results Tables. Social Metrics Commission, 2019, https://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/SMC_results-tables-201908.pdf. Accessed 22 Dec 2019.
Pasqual, Alice. Until Debt Tear Us Apart. 2017, https://unsplash.com/photos/Olki5QpHxts. Accessed 22 Dec 2019.
Revie, Emma. “The Trussell Trust — Mid Year Stats”. The Trussell Trust, 2019, https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/mid-year-stats/. Accessed 19 Dec 2019.
Silver, Caleb. “Top 20 Economies In The World”. Investopedia, 2019, https://www.investopedia.com/insights/worlds-top-economies/. Accessed 23 Dec 2019.
Stroud, Philippa. MEASURING POVERTY 2019. 1st ed., Social Metrics Commission, 2019, https://socialmetricscommission.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2019/07/SMC_measuring-poverty-201908_full-report.pdf. Accessed 22 Dec 2019.
Tyler, Gloria. Food Banks In The UK. House Of Commons Library, London, 2019, pp. 4–5.