Video: ‘Perfect storm’ of benefit changes and stagnant wages blamed for 500% rise in food parcels handed out to families in Ipswich

Feature on Ipswich food bank. Pictured is volunteer Sarah Jarrold.

Feature on Ipswich food bank. Pictured is volunteer Sarah Jarrold. - Credit: Gregg Brown

More than 3,000 food parcels were given out in Ipswich last year – a 500% rise compared to three years ago, it has emerged.

And across Suffolk as a whole, the number of adults and children receiving emergency supplies from food banks has more than doubled in the last 12 months.

The food bank in Ipswich is operated by Families in Need (FIND), and founder Maureen Reynel said the demand for parcels had increased every year since it began.

From 489 parcels in 2011, there were 1,980 in 2012 and 3,130 in 2013, not including Christmas hampers.

The Ipswich statistics have been revealed on the same day the Trussell Trust – which operates other food banks in Suffolk and across the country – released a report into their use.

It claimed rising numbers were turning to them despite the economic recovery because of a “perfect storm” of changes to the social security system, benefit sanctions, low and stagnant wages and “insecure” zero-hours contracts.

Chris Mould, chairman of The Trussell Trust, said the state of food poverty in the UK was a “national disgrace”.

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He said: “Trussell Trust food banks are seeing parents skipping meals to feed their children and significant repercussions of food poverty on physical and mental health.

“Unless there is determined policy action to ensure that the benefits of national economic recovery reach people on low-incomes we won’t see life get better for the poorest anytime soon.”

There are three Trussell Trust food banks in the county – East Suffolk Foodbank in Lowestoft, Haverhill Foodbank and Lakenheath Foodbank.

A total of 4,979 people received emergency meals from these in 2013/14, a surge from 2,061 in 2012/13.

Some 1,380 children requested food supplies last year, a 12-month rise from 665.

The findings were laid bare in a report by The Trussell Trust, Oxfam and Church Action on Poverty, which warned the numbers are “just the tip of the iceberg” and called for a new package of measures to prevent vulnerable families from failing into “destitution and hunger”.

Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, added: “Protecting its people from going hungry is one of the most fundamental duties of Government. Most of us assume that when we fall on hard times, the social security safety net will kick in, and prevent us falling into destitution and hunger.

“We want all political parties to commit to re-instating the safety net principle as a core purpose of the social security system, and draw up proposals to ensure that no one in the UK should go hungry.”