Outcry from celebrities as UK foodbank usage doubles

Foodbank distributing foodFoodbank distributing food
Foodbank distributing food | Shutterstock
Dozens of celebrities including Stephen Fry and Joanna Lumley have expressed their anger at the rising need for emergency food in the UK, joining calls for the government to prioritise addressing the issue. 

The Trussell Trust released figures this week revealing a record 3.1 million food parcels were distributed by food banks in their network in the last 12 months, with 655,00 people having to use a food bank for the first time, and 65 per cent of parcels going to families with children.

There was also a concerning increase in parcels going to pensioners, with 179,000 households with someone over the age of 65 receiving food parcels this year – up a third on the previous 12 months.

Celebrities from TV, music and entertainment such as Aisling Bea, Levi Roots and Dame Arlene Phillips have since spoken out, calling on the government to prioritise the issue.

Actor and broadcaster Stephen Fry said: ‘"The numbers are devastating. This should not be happening in 2024. We need a government that takes poverty seriously and prioritises the well-being of its citizens. No one should be forced to rely on charity for basic essentials."

The number of parcels provided is a shocking 94 per cent increase compared to five years ago, leading The Trussell Trust to insist this cannot become the new normal as there are solutions that would ensure no one had to turn to a food bank - such as an Essentials Guarantee.

Celebrities’ concerns

Comedian and TV star Aisling Bea supported this call and said: “I can't imagine the stress and anxiety parents must feel when they have to turn to food banks, just to put food on the table or feed their kids, and living in that daily unknown.

“Over a million food parcels for children in a year is a disgrace in a country as wealthy as the UK.

“We need leadership which acknowledges and supports people in the form of an Essentials Guarantee and which listens to the advice of the Trussell Trust.”

Other celebrities to voice their concerns include comedian Rosie Jones, Great British Bake Off judge Prue Leith and Youtube stars Mark and Roxanne Hoyle of LadBaby who have had five Christmas number one singles raising money for the charity.

Actress Joanna Lumley stated “It's heartbreaking to hear that pensioners are increasingly having to turn to food banks for support.

“With a 27 per cent rise in the number of food parcels for households with someone aged 65 or older, we need to ensure our social security system is robust enough to care for people. It's time for a real change.”

The findings show an alarming rise in food bank usage, with the total number almost doubling in the last five years.

Reducing the need for foodbanks

The Trussell Trust is calling for an Essentials Guarantee that would ensure that everyone on Universal Credit would have a protected minimum amount of support, meaning nobody would be unable to afford the essentials such as food and a warm home.

Chief Executive of the Trussell Trust, Emma Revie, has urged all political parties to prioritise addressing rising poverty in the UK and to map out in upcoming manifestos how they will build a future where nobody needs a food bank to survive.

She said: “This outcry from celebrities reflects the opinions of the general public who have repeatedly made clear that this can’t be allowed to continue, no-one should need to be turning to a charity for something as essential as food.

“But it doesn’t have to be this way and we know what needs to change.

“We need a social security system fit for purpose that ensures people's incomes cover the cost of the essentials we all need in life.

“The next government cannot afford to ignore this issue. As we approach the next UK general election, we urge all political leaders to set out how they will build a future where no one needs a food bank to survive.”

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