Are food bank statistics "misleading the public"?

17 April 2014

The rise in the number of people using food banks featured on many front pages yesterday. But is the data behind the story "misleading the public" about the scale of the problem of hunger and malnutrition?

That is what some unnamed government officials think, according to this morning's Daily Mail. It points out that the number of food banks available to provide aid has also increased, so the reported rise doesn't necessarily represent an increase in the number of people unable to feed themselves.

As we've seen before, there are a number of possible explanations for expanding food bank use. However a government-commissioned report earlier this year did find "no evidence to support the idea that increased food aid provision is driving demand."

The Trussell Trust - the charity which operates the food banks in question and collects the data on their usage - also says in its release that while "there has been a 163 percent increase in foodbank use, there has only been a 45 percent increase in the number of new Trussell Trust foodbanks opening in the last year" (although this might not account for existing food banks increasing the scale of their operations).

According to the Mail, the government points to OECD research which shows that the proportion of people in the UK who reported not having enough money to buy food fell from 9.8% in 2007 to 8.1% in 2012. The average proportion of people unable to pay for food increased over the same period across both the OECD group of nations and the EU.


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