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Feeding Hope: how food Banks are rescuing 800,000 UK kids from hunger

One-fifth of the population was in relative poverty after the first year of the pandemic, when support measures were scrapped.

Poverty levels have risen again after the first year of the pandemic, according to the first official figures on UK food bank use. The study found that families including 800,000 children were forced to turn to food banks in order to feed themselves.

The government's official poverty data revealed that the reduction in relative poverty during the first year of the Covid crisis was temporary and reversed after ministers scrapped support measures.

Poverty levels and food bank use are expected to increase because the latest data was collected in 2021-22 and the removal of the £20-a-week uplift to universal credit in October 2021 will drive up fuel and food costs.

The Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) data shows that 21% of the UK population was in relative poverty in 2021-22, including 29% of children, 8% of working-age adults and 2% of pensioners.

In the UK, about 3% of the population had accessed a food bank at least once in the previous 12 months during 2021-22, though this rose to 16% of households claiming universal credit.

6% of people in the nation experienced high or very high levels of food insecurity, meaning they struggled to afford sufficient food for themselves and their family. One-third (33%) of those households that were food insecure used food banks in the previous 12 months.

Heather Buckingham, spokeswoman for the Trussell Trust food bank network, said that data collected before the cost of living crisis began to bite showed thousands of people were already unable to afford the essentials. Since then, she said that according to data from the trust's own sources, "things have only got worse."

The government has not collected data on food bank use despite their significance in the charity response to rising poverty. The Trussell Trust and Independent Food Aid Network have collected comprehensive data, which shows an increase in food bank use over this period.

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation thinktank, said: "The government should act on this data and seriously scrutinize why its policies are failing to protect struggling families from affording the basics."

The Office for National Statistics (ONS) released its household below average income (HBAI) statistics for 2021-22, drawing on the 2021-22 family resources survey. The figures also revealed

While many people in poverty live in households where at least one adult is working, the majority of children living in poverty reside in families where at least one parent has a job.

Three times as many black children live in poverty compared to white children. About 44% of children in single-parent families, and 36% of children living in families where someone has a disability, live below the poverty line.

The HBAI statistics are the UK's official source of poverty estimates. They were based on interviews with more than 16,000 households carried out between April 2021 and March 2022, and they define relative poverty as 60% of the median UK income.

The Resolution Foundation reported that government measures had generally protected household incomes during the pandemic, but that ongoing cost of living increases and child poverty probably rose.

The Department for Work and Pensions declined to comment on the commonly used relative poverty statistics, pointing instead to absolute poverty statistics, which it claimed were a better measure of living standards. The DWP's preferred measure showed that poverty levels had remained stable year on year and were on a downward trend.


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