Trussell Trust warns UK food banks face ‘breaking point’ as demand hits record high amid cost of living crisis

The UK’s largest food bank network has been forced to begin an emergency appeal as demand outstrips supply. But which parts of the country have been worst affected?

The UK’s biggest network of food banks has warned it could face ‘breaking point’ as soaring demand for its parcels outstrips donations.

The Trussell Trust gave out a record number of emergency food parcels in the six months to September across the UK, new figures show. And with need outstripping donations for the first time in its history, it has been forced to launch an emergency appeal.

The charity, which supports more than 1,300 food banks across the UK, said one in five people referred to its services were from working households and its volunteers were preparing for their busiest winter yet.

Chief executive Emma Revie said: “These new statistics show that, even in summer months, people are struggling to afford the essentials and we are expecting that this winter will be the hardest yet for food banks and the people they support. This is not right.”

Ms Revie urged the government to use next week’s medium-term fiscal plan - a budget in all but name - to help the most vulnerable. She called for “swift support now to help people through the winter” and beyond, saying benefits needed to keep up with inflation and more work was needed to close the gap between price rises and incomes.


A government spokesperson said: “We are directly supporting households in need following the aftershocks from the pandemic and Putin’s illegal war in Ukraine, including sending another Cost of Living Payment this month worth £324 to over eight million people, part of a £1,200 package for those on the lowest incomes.

“Our extensive immediate support for families also includes our Energy Price Guarantee, saving around £700 for a typical household over winter, and our Household Support Fund, worth over £1 billion to help people with essential costs, combined with longer-term changes such as altering Universal Credit to help people keep £1,000 more of what they earn every year.”

‘Our stock levels are very low’

A volunteer, right, speaking with a member of the public inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London in October.  (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)A volunteer, right, speaking with a member of the public inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London in October.  (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)
A volunteer, right, speaking with a member of the public inside a foodbank in Hackney, north-east London in October. (Photo: Daniel Leal/AFP via Getty Images)

Food banks within the network have reported dwindling stocks as more and more people turn to them for help. Josie Barlow, the manager of Bradford Foodbank in West Yorkshire, said one recent visitor had told her that buying milk was “a luxury now”.

She said: “So many people are struggling with bills and food prices. We are fortunate to be able to help people and we work hard to support them in both the short and long term, but we are also facing challenges. We have seen a huge increase in people coming to the food bank in the last two months compared to the same period last year and our stock levels are very low for this time of the year.”

The nations and regions worst affected

The Trussell Trust said its network gave out more emergency food parcels from April to September this year than ever before. Almost 1.3 million emergency parcels were given out to people across the UK throughout this six-month period, up by a third (33%) on the same period last year and an increase of 52% compared with 2019, before the pandemic. More than a third of the food parcels (38%) were for children.


Wales was the nation with the sharpest rise in demand, with 76,688 parcels handed out in the six months to September, an increase of 38% on the same period a year ago. A Welsh Government spokesperson said: “Whilst we can’t shield everyone from the cost of living crisis, we are doing everything we can to help people through this very difficult period with targeted support for those who need it the most.”

Scotland saw a 34% rise in the number of food parcels given out in the six months to September, when compared with the same period last year. A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “We are very concerned about the hardship people are facing as a result of the cost of living crisis. We are doing what we can to help families, within the limited powers we have. We have allocated almost £3 billion in this financial year to help households face the increased cost of living, including £1 billion in providing services and financial support not available elsewhere in the UK.”

The spokesman said its draft plan for ending the need for food banks had received strong public support, adding: “We will publish a final version later this winter. As we said in our Programme for Government, this will need to reflect the cost of living crisis and recent economic shocks that are going to make this work even harder.”

England saw demand rise by a third (33%) in the six months to September, compared to the same period last year. The English region with the steepest rise was the North East. Trussell Trust food banks distributed 66,936 food parcels across the region in the six months to September, a 55% increase on the same period last year.

Northern Ireland saw demand rise by a quarter (25%), with 31,687 food parcels given out between April and September this year.

A spokesperson for the Northern Ireland Executive said: “The cost of living crisis is having a significant impact across Northern Ireland and Departmental officials, who are aware of the financial pressures individuals and families are facing, continue to engage with, and support, grassroots organisations and local communities.”

The spokesperson flagged up a range of support measures available for people during the cost of living crisis, such as help with energy costs, housing and claiming benefits.