UK food bank use reached record levels, says charity

Britain saw record use of food banks between April and September this year, a charity said on Thursday, as the coronavirus pandemic’s economic toll tipped more people into poverty.

The Trussell Trust, which supports more than 1,200 food banks across the UK, said its network experienced a 47 percent increase in usage during the six months from April.

On average, it handed out 2,600 emergency food parcels to children every day, as part of more than 1.2 million packages distributed to struggling Britons.

The charity said that made it “the busiest ever half-year period for food banks”, breaking the previous record set during the same period in 2019.

“This pandemic has shown the unexpected can hit us suddenly, with devastating consequences for people’s lives,” Emma  Revie, Trussell Trust chief executive, said in a statement. 

“But it’s not right that any of us are forced to a charity for food, at any time of year.”

The virus has hit Britain harder than any other country in Europe, with the government recording more than 50,000 deaths from 1.2 million positive cases.

The economy has also been heavily affected, registering its deepest ever recession, although official data on Thursday suggested a record rebound in the third quarter.

Gross domestic product (GDP) expanded by 15.5 percent in the July-September period, as an initial coronavirus lockdown was eased, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Food poverty has been in the headlines in recent months after a campaign by Manchester United striker Marcus Rashford to feed England’s poorest children during school holidays.

The issue became heavily politicised, as Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s government last month voted against a proposal to give free meals to vulnerable youngsters over the holidays.

However, the government backtracked earlier this month and said it would now provide the meal over the winter holidays.