Earlier this month some stark new data was released by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) showing that almost one in four consumers now report skipping a meal or cutting the size of meals due to lack of money to buy food. And that 15 per cent of consumers – over one in six – reported using a food bank in March 2022.
These alarming figures are in keeping with the steep rise we’re seeing here at Earlsfield Foodbank. There are around 150 households regularly using our food bank. Two years ago this was less than 40.
What the new FSA data shows is that food bank usage is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food insecurity. For every person who visits a food bank, there are so many more who are struggling to afford food and aren’t seeking help.
When a new guest registers at our food bank, our initial interview often reveals that they’ve been struggling for a while. Visiting a food bank is a big step, one most people don’t want to take and often put off for as long as possible. New guest Lana says: “For weeks I knew we were getting to this point; we’ve been running out of food earlier and earlier in the week. But I just couldn’t bring myself to go. I feel so ashamed that I need a food bank.”
We’ve also helped guests who have needed to keep their food bank visits a secret as they were concerned about what their partner or children would think. Many guests also talk about being worried about seeing someone they know at the food bank. Monica says: “It’s just a bit embarrassing, isn’t it? Like you haven’t looked after things properly. I would hate for someone to see me here.”
Another barrier to getting support can also be simply not knowing where the nearest food bank is. Karl says: “For two winters I sat in my flat, cold, hungry, and alone, not knowing that there was a food bank right across the street. It was only a few steps in the end but a journey that saved my life.” After signing up as a guest, Karl soon became a regular volunteer as well and is now part of our management team.