More than 10,000 city residents turn to food banks

Food bank volunteers begin the work of sorting through provisions. Picture: Neil Hanna
Food bank volunteers begin the work of sorting through provisions. Picture: Neil Hanna
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MORE than 10,000 struggling residents were forced to use Capital food banks in the past year, figures have revealed.

The statistics suggest more than four times as many people were fed by The Trussell Trust – the UK’s largest food bank provider – in 2014 than the previous year.

It equates to 10,704 Edinburgh residents visiting one of the centres with 2454 given emergency food supplies.

In 2012, around 640 people visited a food bank in the city.

The figures come as it emerged more than 50,000 people received a three-day supply of food from the charity in the sixth months to September, including 15,424 children.

Ewan Gurr, Scotland network manager at The Trussell Trust, said Edinburgh has the second highest number of food bank users in Scotland, behind Glasgow.

“The rise has been huge, and it seems to be the case right across the board,” he said.

“The major thing we have seen increasing is the number of people that have been referred to us because of their low income.

“A lot of those people are on static incomes or zero-hours contracts. There has been a huge rise in the cost of living and that’s put people under pressure.”

He added: “I was involved in running food banks for seven years until 2013, and over the period of those seven years of running a food bank in Dundee the numbers have risen at quite a disturbing rate.

“There are a number of issues at hand, and one obviously is the rise in the cost of food and fuel.

“The introduction of welfare reform is also one of the key issues. But the emerging trend now is working people who are having to use these services.”

The Trussell Trust runs 48 food banks across Scotland and expects demand to rise further on the approach to the festive season.

Many centres will be open on Christmas Day for the first time this year.

Councillor Ricky Henderson, convener of the city’s Health, Social Care and Housing Committee, said the growth in use of food banks was evidence of the impact that changes to the welfare system are having on the neediest people in society.

He said: “If they’re deemed not to be doing what they should be in terms of looking for work, then the DWP [Department for Work and Pensions] job centre can stop their benefits for a period of time.

“For some people, that can mean literally not having any money coming in at all. In order to feed themselves and their families, people are then forced to turn to foodbanks.

“The total provision of food banks is difficult to measure, because a lot of it is done in an ad hoc way by churches, charities and community centres, besides the Trussell Trust who are very organised.”