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Food banks have existed in the UK for twenty years.  The increase in the number of emergency food parcels distributed by food banks have accelerated over the course of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Trussell Trust reported a 47 per cent increase in the number of three-day emergency food parcels it distributed in the 6 months from March to September 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.  It noted a particularly marked increase in the number of food parcels going to children.

The Independent Food Aid Network, IFAN, reported a 62% increase in emergency food parcel distribution in October 2020 compared with October 2019.  Independent food banks also saw a rise of 88% over the period February to October 2020 compared to the same period in 2019.

The Trussell Trust opened its first UK food bank in 2000 and operates over half of food banks in the country.  IFAN, the Independent Food Aid Network, represents food banks outside the Trussell Trust and since 2020 has been collecting data from them across the UK.

Both the number of food banks and the quantity of emergency food parcels they distribute have increased.  In February 2021 there were over 1,300 Trussell Trust food banks in the UK, in addition to over 900 independent food banks. 

Please note: for information on accessing food banks and food parcels during the pandemic please see our briefing Coronavirus: Support for household finances

For an account of developments in food bank activity over the crisis period see section 2 of this paper, Food Banks in the UK.

Food bank statistics should not be used as a proxy for poverty measurements, which can be found in our briefing Poverty in the UK: statistics.  The comprehensiveness and accuracy of food bank data, and the number of food aid outlets in existence, will affect food bank figures regardless of any changes or stability in poverty levels.


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