Hundreds of hidden food banks are operating in the UK, research has revealed, indicating the true scale of food poverty is higher than previously thought.
The Independent reports on a mapping project undertaken by the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) which showed there were more than 2,000 food banks across the country, of which at least 651 are grassroots organisations operating independently of the Trussell Trust, Britains biggest food bank provider.
The Trussell network revealed in April that the number of people accessing their service had risen by seven per cent in the last year, with the charity providing 1,182,954 three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis between April 2016 and March 2017, compared with 1,109,309 the previous year.
Extent of food poverty in Britain
But the new findings indicate the extent of food poverty in the UK is even bigger, revealing that alongside the 1,373 distribution centres operate out of Trussell Trust 419 food banks, there are 651 independents amounting to a total of 2,024 food banks.
Ifan’s research defines a food bank as an organisation that gives out food parcels on a weekly basis, and does not include informal food parcel distribution by social welfare charities, children’s centres, churches, housing associations, hospitals and other groups.
Trussell Trust said last month that the rise in food bank use was largely due to significant problems with the roll-out of the new Universal Credit system for administering benefits that was introduced last year, urging that although the system had been piecemeal so far, food banks in areas of partial or full roll-out were reporting significant problems with its impact.
This was shown by the fact that food banks in areas of full Universal Credit roll-out to single people, couples and families, saw a 17 per cent average increase in referrals for emergency food in the past year more than double the national average of seven per cent.
Benefit delays and changes remained the biggest cause of referral to a food bank, accounting for 43 per cent of all referrals, a rise on last years 42 per cent, while the proportion of referrals due to low income increased from 23 per cent to 26 per cent.