Food banks have said they should reduce the size of packages they give to struggling families due to declining stocks caused by the heavy truck crisis, supply shortages and a collapse in public donations.
A combination of declining food bank stocks and an expected explosion in demand for charitable support after the universal credit cut this week has led some to prepare emergency measures to further reduce the food supply, especially by reducing packages and offering less variety.
Several said they were already spending hundreds of pounds a month to replenish reserves depleted by a drop in deliveries of surplus food from supermarkets and a sharp drop in food donations from the public.
A survey of 68 UK food banks carried out by the Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) in mid-September and seen by the Guardian, two-thirds reported food shortages and more than 80% expect a shortage of food stocks in the near future.
“Put simply, we run out of certain types of food because we can’t afford to buy them and they are no longer donated,” a food bank in south-east London reported.
Food banks anticipate a sharp increase in the number of people turning to them for help in the coming months due to the end of the Â£ 20 per week universal credit from October 6, the end of holidays and strong increases in energy bills.
Price sharing, a food charity that normally handles 150 tons of surplus food in supermarkets per day, distributing it to charities and food banks, said bulk deliveries to its warehouses have fallen by a third due to the shortage of truck drivers.
He said he had seen “no sign that things were changing” and that he had made an emergency appeal for volunteer carriers “who are able to take on additional work”. Last year, FareShare distributed 55,000 tonnes of surplus food, the equivalent of 132 million meals, to more than 10,000 UK charities.
“Due to the issues facing the trucking industry, we estimate that up to 30% of the food we would normally expect to receive in our warehouses in an average day may not reach us,” and therefore not reaching the vulnerable people we support, âsaid Lindsay Boswell, CEO of FareShare.
Ministers announced a Â£ 500million winter hardship fund last week, but charities described it as “temporary sticky plaster”. “The government is counting on food bank teams to tinker with small emergency packages and local authorities to stretch paltry sums as they try to fill an ever-growing void,” said Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the ‘Ifan.
Bread and fish food bank in East Kilbride is bracing for an estimated 50% increase in demand for charity food by Christmas. Public donations have declined in recent months, he says, as people “have less for themselves and less in their closets.”
A generous cash donation had helped ease the tension locally, manager Lesley Davidson said, but supermarkets didn’t always let him buy food in the quantities he needed. âIt keeps me awake at night because I have 100 families who rely on me,â she said.
The food bank stopped buying canned tuna and meat because it could not justify the expense and is considering reducing the amount of jarred noodles, milk and coffee, she added. âWe always try to give a very generous package, with a nod to good nutrition, but we will have to reduce the size of the food packages.
Andy Thornton of the Harlow Food Bank in Essex has seen a drop in individual food donations. He has six months of food reserves but is worried. “We’re not discouraged because we have the money for a rainy day, but it’s amazing how much Â£ 1,000 is bought up when you feed hundreds of people.”
Jane Calcutt, director of the Kettering food bank, said she had to buy basic donations. âA year ago our warehouse was full of pasta and baked beans; I must have bought some baked beans last week.