“It’s not right that anyone needs to turn to a food bank to get by.”
I'm chatting to Penny Russell of the Trussell Trust, the charity that supports a network of over 1,300 food banks across the UK. The firm belief that food banks shouldn’t actually exist is central to Trussell’s thinking. As Penny and I talk about the KIDLY Family Fund's latest charitable partnership, she explains how the Trussell Trust’s had to shift its focus over the last few years, because the need for their services is so great:
“We’ve seen an exponential rise in the need for food banks,” she explains. “In 2010 we provided 60,000 parcels to people facing financial hardship. Last year, we gave out 2.1 million. 832,000 of these parcels were provided for children. This can’t be right – everyone should be able to afford essentials like food.
“There are lots of reasons why more and more people are facing hunger here in the UK: the pandemic, the recent cost of living crisis and cuts to Universal Credit have meant families’ incomes have been cut to the bone. The result is that many people in the UK are struggling to make ends meet and are being forced into impossible decisions no one should have to face.
“For young families, it means there are parents skipping meals so they can feed their children. Or kids missing out on simple things we all treasure from our own childhoods, like having playdates, because the house is too cold, or there isn’t even a spare drink or snack to offer a visitor. We’ve had people who aren’t able to accept potatoes in food parcels, because they can’t afford to cook them. People shouldn’t have to make decisions like these just to survive.
“The Trussell Trust’s network of food banks provides a lifeline of emergency support for people facing financial hardship, with 3-day parcels of food, household items and toiletries, as well as practical support to help people resolve the crises they face. But we’re also working with communities across the UK to campaign to change the things that are leaving people without enough money so that, in the future, no one needs to use a food bank.”
Between April 2021 and March 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust network gave out 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people struggling to afford life’s essentials - an increase of 14% on the previous year. 832,000 of these parcels went to children.
When the pandemic hit, Caroline was put on furlough and lost 80% of her wages. In August 2020, she was made redundant when the nursery she was working for closed for good. “I want people to understand what it’s like: imagine telling your child they can’t go to a birthday party, imagine not having £1 in your purse when your child’s tooth falls out, imagine sitting watching your child eat whilst your own stomach grumbles with hunger as you try to stretch your food bank package to last as long as possible. Imagine having no choice over the food in your cupboard, as it’s donated to you. It’s not easy walking into a food bank and saying you need help.”
Aneita was working for the NHS but moved from full-time to part-time work to care for her daughter. When her tax credits were stopped and she was told her benefits had been overpaid by £5,000, she was left with no option other than to borrow money and turn to a food bank just to get by. “I was suddenly plunged into a financial nightmare, not knowing how I was going to pay my bills, feed myself and my daughter, buy the things we needed such as clothes, shoes. I was referred to a food bank and I remember sitting in a waiting room with my daughter, waiting to be given a food parcel. I was holding back my tears, not wanting my daughter to see me upset and thinking, ‘How, why has it got to this?’ Poverty does not discriminate. It can and will single you out through no fault of your own.”
“Our network of food banks provides the lifeline of emergency support for people in crisis. But we’re also working in the long term to end the need for food banks, for good.”
Penny Russell, the Trussell Trust
Because helping families is what KIDLY’s all about, 5% of our 6th birthday week’s sales - a total donation of £20,000 - went to fund the Trussell Trust’s important work, providing the lifeline of emergency support for families in crisis, while also working in the long term to end the need for food banks, for good. You can find out more about the Trussell Trust and how else you can help them.
And thanks so much for supporting Trussell by shopping with us during our 6th birthday week. You really have already made a difference!
Kids eating: Angela Mulligan on Unsplash