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Northern Ireland food banks: Demand soars after ‘busiest winter on record’

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There has been almost a 15% increase in the need for emergency provisions from food banks throughout the UK since before the pandemic (Charlotte White/PA)

There has been almost a 15% increase in the need for emergency provisions from food banks throughout the UK since before the pandemic (Charlotte White/PA)

There has been almost a 15% increase in the need for emergency provisions from food banks throughout the UK since before the pandemic (Charlotte White/PA)

More and more people are having to make “impossible choices” and turn to food banks, the Trussell Trust in Northern Ireland has said – after revealing a 36% increase in demand for food parcels.

Speaking tothe BBC’s Good Morning Ulster programme, Jonny Currie, the network’s regional lead here, warned politicians food poverty is becoming a bigger issue amidst the cost of living crisis, citing last year’s Christmas period as the organisation’s “busiest winter on record”.

New figures released on Tuesday revealed that over 61,000 food parcels were provided by the Trussell Trust in NI from April 1, 2021 to March 31, 2022.

Mr Currie also noted that 26,000 of those parcels were for children.

"More and more people having to make those impossible choices have to turn to food banks,” he said.

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“Food banks across our network in Northern Ireland are encountering more and more people that are forced to turn to food banks for the first time, simply because their income isn’t enough for them to be able to afford the essentials. "

While the statistics show that more food parcels were delivered during the height of the pandemic, with numbers reaching nearly 80,000, Mr Currie said the latest figures show a 36% increase compared to the same period prior to the Covid-19 outbreak.

Throughout the entirety of the UK, food banks in the the Trussell Trust’s network gave more than 2.1 million parcels to people facing financial hardship across the nation.

It is also the first time said food banks have provided more than two million parcels outside 2020/21, during the worse effects of the coronavirus crisis.

“There’s still time to turn this around,” Mr Currie added.

"Food bank staff and volunteers shouldn’t have to pick up the pieces of government in action. We need to ensure that benefit payments are increased by at least 7%, we have to make sure more income comes into the pockets of low-income families, and our government needs to think strategically around addressing the root causes of poverty that are causing people to turn to food banks.”

In February, Derry’s Foyle Foodbank reported a 310% increase in demand for food in the five years since it first launched, while Belfast-based LifeHubNI saw a 200% increase in families across the city needing its services.

In the more rural town of Magherafelt, the manager of Trussell Trust-backed food bank Hope, added that over 700 families have needed help with necessities in the last year or so, compared to only 250 that needed assistance in 2019.

"The demand is rising,” said Jenny Thompson. “There hasn’t been a year yet since we opened that the number of food parcels we have provided hasn’t increased.”

Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust overall, emphasised that the UK government should bring benefits in line with the “true cost of living” by increasing them by at least 7%.

She said: “People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework.

“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship. No one’s income should fall so dangerously low that they cannot afford to stay fed, warm and dry.”


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