Food banks have sadly become an all too familiar sight in many of our cities, towns and villages and demand continues to rise. The fact that they are needed at all in the 21st century (and in one of the most developed and economically wealthy countries in the world), is surely something that none of us should be proud of.
But how many of us know exactly what food banks do? The Trussell Trust is one of the UK’s leading charities who help create and support food banks in communities across the UK. According to their research, thirteen million people live below the poverty line in the UK, with people going hungry every day for a range of reasons: redundancy; changing domestic circumstances (such as divorce and bereavement); benefit delays or receiving an unexpected bill on a low income.
The Trussell Trust was was founded in 1997 by Carol and Paddy Henderson based on a legacy left by Carol’s mother, Betty Trussell. Although synonymous with the creation of food banks in the UK, it all started in response to seeing children and babies living on the streets in Bulgaria when Carol and Paddy were working for a UN feeding programme.
The food bank was born in 2000 when Paddy received a call from a desperate mother in Salisbury saying: “My children are going to bed hungry tonight – what are you going to do about it.” This spurred Paddy into investigating local indices of deprivation and ‘hidden hunger’ in the UK. The shocking results showed that significant numbers of local people faced short-term hunger as a result of a sudden crisis.
As a result, Paddy started the Salisbury food bank in his garden shed and garage, providing three days’ of emergency food to local people in crisis. In 2004, the UK Food Bank Network was launched, teaching churches and communities, nationwide, how to start their own food banks.
Today The Trussell Trust has a network of over 420 food banks that operate out of more than 1,200 centres across the UK, providing a minimum of three days’ emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis. In 2017/18, the charity gave out 1,332,952 three-day emergency food supplies. Care professionals such as health visitors, schools and social workers identify people in crisis and issue them with a food bank voucher. This entitles them to receive a food bank parcel of three days’ nutritionally balanced, non-perishable food.
Non-perishable, in-date food can be donated by the public at a range of places, such as schools, churches and businesses, as well as supermarket collection points. Over 40,000 volunteers sort all this into emergency food parcels, ready to be distributed to those in need.
The Trust recognises that stopping hunger is about more than providing food. They develop, run and enable community projects, helping combat poverty and social exclusion, creating community hubs that provide people in need with a range of support as well as emergency food, all in one location. Volunteers provide a listening ear to clients over a warm drink, and signpost people to other charities and agencies who can help resolve the underlying cause of the crisis.
Money management charities partner food banks to provide tools and courses to help tackle debt and financial difficulties and the Trust’s basic cookery, nutrition and budget management course helps people to eat healthily when on a low budget. They provide food and fun activities to help families at times when free school meals are not available. Food banks can help people to get through fuel poverty issues, with fuel vouchers and guided self-help. Many food banks offer toiletries and non-food items, for instance ‘Baby Basics’ provide new mothers with essential items.
Winter will undoubtedly be a busy time for the Trust and with Christmas around the corner, perhaps you could make a gift to your local food bank to help make things more bearable for someone in crisis. A simple box of food makes a big difference.
Food banks rely on the support of local communities. For more information on donating, volunteering or to find the food bank nearest to you please visit: https://www.trusselltrust.org/ or call: 01722 580 180