THE NUMBER of people seeking emergency food aid in the UK has doubled in the past six months, the largest organiser of food banks reported yesterday.
The Trussell Trust, which operates 172 food banks and has a further 91 under development, said 110,000 adults and children were referred to it from April to September.
The trust, which operates a controlled voucher scheme in order to track referrals, said it fed 128,000 people in the last financial year, so far, but expects that number to rise to more than 200,000 in the current financial year.
Executive chairman Chris Mould said: ‘When you’ve got people who are on the margin of just making it and there’s another price rise, another change in their outgoings, they can’t negotiate, something gives, and it is going to be the food.’
A breakdown of the figures also shows a prevalence of young teenagers and adults taking up emergency food aid, with 14,500, 16% of all those being referred, aged 16-24, a group that makes up just 11% of the UK population in total.
The trust’s own indicators also show that the largest block of people were being left unable to feed themselves because of delays or a change in circumstances to their benefit claims.
Currently, 45% of professionals referring families and adults for food packages cited troubles and delays with the benefits system.
‘The period in which people are left with no recourse to money and therefore an inability to get food on the table is longer,’ Mould said.
The Office for National Statistics said the Consumer Prices Index (CPI) measure of inflation was 2.2% last month, down from 2.5% in August.
The ONS said that the Retail Prices Index (RPI) measure, which includes mortgage payments, stood at 2.6% in September down from 2.9% the month before.
The CPI September level is now used to work out the rise in a range of benefits from Jobseeker’s Allowance to income support in April next year, so with the CPI level much lower than last September, when it stood at 5.2%, the uprating of benefit levels is set be much lower in April 2013.
Brendan Barber, general secretary of the TUC, said: ‘These figures should be seen in the context of continuing real wage falls, which have meant families getting poorer every month for the last three years.’
Unite general secretary, Len McCluskey said: ‘Greedy energy companies are recklessly heating up inflation while families up and down the country struggle to heat their homes just as winter approaches.
‘With September’s inflation figure being used to calculate increases in payments to pensioners and those on benefits, the poor and the most vulnerable will be especially hard hit by the impact of these energy price hikes.’
He added: ‘Energy companies are abusing their social responsibilities and they have proved time and time again that without legislation they will not change their behaviour.’