Here are some common myths surrounding food banks that you might have been wrongly led to believe.
1. Food banks only provide food.
Trussell Trust food banks provide a lot more than food; that’s because we recognise that tackling hunger also means tackling the underlying cause of the crisis. Trussell Trust food banks signpost people to local agencies and charities who help people break out of poverty.
Over 90% of Trussell Trust food banks provide extras alongside emergency food: this can vary from toiletries and sanitary products to baby basics, holiday clubs, CV clinics, and financial, welfare and housing advice. We’re currently partnering with Money Saving Expert Martin Lewis to pilot hosting financial and debt advisers in food banks. This extra level of support aims to help people during their immediate crisis, whilst also recognising that it can take more than food to help someone break out of their situation long term.
2. Food banks are only used by people who don’t know how to budget.
A midwife recently visited a food bank. She was thrown into crisis when her husband left the family home; the sudden shift from two incomes to one left her struggling to juggle the cost of childcare for her young children whilst she was on hospital shifts.
It was not that she didn’t know how to budget; it was that she did not have enough to budget with when her situation changed unexpectedly. Put simply, if you have no money as a result of a crisis, it’s very difficult to budget. People on low incomes are often very innovative in managing extremely low budgets. But when a ‘life shock’ from an outside source – like an unexpected bill or redundancy – hits, there is no breathing space to cushion family finances.
3. People go to food banks because they don’t know how to cook.
Lots of people in poverty do know how to cook, but it is very hard to cook when you have no money for food. We are currently piloting ‘Eat Well Spend Less’ courses that teach people who’d like some help how to cook on a very tight budget.
4. People go to food banks to get free food, or dog food, so they can spend their money on junk food, tattoos and cigarettes.
Edwina Currie used this argument in her infamous quote in 2014. But going to a food bank is a last resort when all other coping strategies have been exhausted. It takes courage to admit you cannot feed your family. People wait on the other side of the road for half an hour, or stand outside in the cold, before finally walking through the food bank door. One young woman who used a food bank recently said, “Going to a food bank was very emotional for me. It’s not something you do lightly, many people break down in tears when they come in. It’s an independence thing.”
The stark reality is that without food banks people go hungry, and food banks prevent people from turning to extreme measures such as shoplifting or rummaging through bins in order to eat.
5. You can’t use a food bank if you work.
Anybody can be in need of emergency food; there is no one ‘type’ of person who goes to a food bank. Our North Cotswold food bank manager, Rhian, said that at her food bank she often meets working families on low incomes who are thrown into crisis when something like an unexpected bill hits; when a crisis hits someone in low paid or insecure work they often have no financial safety net.
6. Food banks are unhealthy.
Independent nutritionists worked closely with us to ensure that the three days’ worth of emergency food we provide is nutritionally-balanced. A typical parcel contains, amongst other items, tinned vegetables, tinned fruit, pasta and UHT milk, and everyone who goes to a food bank is asked whether they have any specific dietary requirements. Furthermore, dieticians are still consulted periodically to ensure that food banks are up to date with the latest guidelines.
7. Food banks cause dependency.
We’re the UK’s biggest food bank provider and we don’t think anyone should need to be dependent on food aid. That’s why our food banks help people out of crisis long term rather than just giving food.
If someone comes to a Trussell Trust food bank more than three times in six months our system automatically flags that. Then we work with local agencies and charities to make a plan to help that person back onto their feet. On average people only need two food bank vouchers in a year to help them out of crisis.
By Molly Hodson, Head of Media and Emma Thorogood, Press Officer at The Trussell Trust.
This piece was originally published on HuffingtonPost.co.uk on 24 April 2015.
Please help us at St John’s to collect for the Norwood & Brixton Foodbank. You can drop off supplies to St John the Evangelist, Sylvan Road, London, SE19 2RX whenever the church is open (between 8.45 and 5.30pm every day), putting them in the collection box at the back of the church by the main entrance.
For more information on what is needed please visit: