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Food Bank Usage Reaches Record High in Cambridgeshire

Based on data from the Trussell Trust, food banks across Cambridgeshire have given out their highest ever number of food parcels in 2022-2023. Figures show that this has doubled since 2017-2018. Food bank use for children also went up by 37.9% between 2021-2022 and 2022-2023.

Food bank use 

People can receive food bank parcels after being given vouchers by care professionals such as health visitors and social workers who identify people in need. Across England, food bank use has increased drastically. 2.5 million food parcels were given out by Trussell Trust Foodbanks across the country in 2022-2023 which symbolises a 37.5% increase from the previous year. 

However, in Cambridgeshire, the rise was 44.7% and the number of food bank parcels given out in South Cambridgeshire has tripled since 2017-18 yet, the area still sees the lowest number of food parcels distributed each year across the county. The Cambridgeshire local authority which saw the highest increase was Fenland, with 86.2% more parcels given out in 2022-23 than the preceding year.

The number of parcels given out by foodbanks in Huntingdon increased by 26.1% between 2021-22 and 2022-23. Godmanchester Food Bank in Huntingdon said more than 4,200 adults and children were helped by the foodbank in the 2022 calendar year. Jude Lechmere, project manager believes the situation will not improve in the next two years. “We’re supporting a lot of people who are low earners or middle earners who just can’t make the money go round,” Lechmere asserted. “The cost of energy and food has gone up and people don’t know where to go.”

Mrs Lechmere also said people visiting the foodbank had been forced to compromise due to rising costs. She said: “If we don’t feed people properly, we’re just storing up another set of problems for later on if children aren’t getting the right balance of food.”

Local responses 

Councillor Mairéad Healy, executive councillor for communities at Cambridge City Council, said the cost-of-living crisis had hit the city hard. The prices of food and non-alcoholic drinks rose at the second highest rate in 45 years in the year to April 2023, according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS).

Cllr Healy said: “We’ve been increasingly concerned about the impact that [the cost-of-living crisis] has had particularly on our most vulnerable residents in the city. Food banks and food hubs across the city do a great job at supporting those in crisis, however, what we want to do is tackle the root causes of poverty so that emergency food systems are there as an emergency lifeline, rather than being seen as an everyday service.”

Cambridge City Council is set to host a ‘food justice’ conference in the autumn to discuss the lack of access to affordable and nutritious food and its impact. Cllr Healy added: “We anticipate that residents will continue to feel the impact of the continuing cost of living crisis, and we will continue to provide ongoing support to our residents.”

Conservative MP for South Cambridgeshire Anthony Browne said inflation meant that the UK as a whole is poorer. He said this is why the Government has provided £94billion in cost-of-living support – an average of £3,300 per household.

“The only way to truly decrease the need for foodbanks is to grow the economy and help people back into work,” Mr Browne said.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, said “For too long people have been going without because social security payments do not reflect life’s essential costs and people are being pushed deeper into hardship as a result. If we are to stop this continued growth and end the need for food banks then the UK government must ensure that the standard allowance of Universal Credit is always enough to cover essential costs.”

Final thought

The rising costs of food and energy will continue to cripple millions of people in the United Kingdom until the Government addresses the situation quickly. Local councils are doing what they can to support people, but widespread national policies are needed.

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