The Trussell Trust runs the UK’s largest network of foodbanks. However, they believe that hunger can’t be left to volunteers to solve. Tom Say, the Trussell Trust’s new campaign manager, explains why they are supporting End Hunger UK’s call for a reformed welfare system.
No one should need to turn to a foodbank. The Trussell Trust supports a network of over 420 foodbanks across the UK but many want to do more to create long-term, long-lasting change. As the Trussell Trust’s new Campaign Manager, I’ll working to help them do just that.
I’ve started this new role in the middle of summer, a time when lots of people might be expecting work to slow down slightly. But for foodbanks, this summer isn’t likely to be a quiet one. Over a third of the emergency food our network provides throughout the year goes to children, but during the summer we see a particular pinch point for families already struggling with tight budgets and now facing extra financial pressure to provide main meals during the school holidays. Last year’s report from The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger estimated the loss of free school meals during the holidays adds between £30 and £40 a week to parents’ outgoings.
Foodbanks see the impact that has on families. Last July and August, over 74,000 supplies were provided by foodbanks in our network to children, compared to 70,000 in May and June of the same year.
This is not okay.
Foodbanks in our network will be doing all they can this summer to help families struggling to make the money they have stretch further – whether that’s by providing emergency food, working closely with local schools and children’s centres, or running a holiday club. Other groups across the country will also be pulling together to provide crucial help. The Department for Education recently announced a funding pilot that will help support work being done to offer meals and activities to children, and there are hundreds of great community groups supporting families across the UK during the holidays.
All of this extra support will make a real difference to families this summer. But if we’re going to end hunger for good we need to make sure everyone has enough money to get by, whatever the time of year.
It’s hard to break free from hunger if there isn’t enough money coming in to keep pace with the rising cost of absolute essentials like food and housing – our network’s data shows the fastest growing reason for referral to a foodbank is benefit levels not covering basic costs.
This can change.
Our benefits system was designed to protect people from destitution, and with our other partners in End Hunger UK, we want to see a Universal Credit system that protects people from needing a foodbank, instead of pushing them into one.
This is where you can help. We at the Trussell Trust are encouraging foodbank volunteers download the End Hunger UK Petition on Universal Credit and take it to their foodbanks. You can also sign it online to make your voice heard. In November, we’ll be delivering this petition to 10 Downing Street in the lead up to the Autumn Budget, alongside volunteers from independent food aid providers and people with direct experience of the system. The bigger the petition is, the more impact it will have. The more the government will have to listen.
Our benefits system can, and must, act as an anchor to protect people from being pulled into poverty. Let’s make sure it does – please support the End Hunger UK campaign by signing the petition now.