How many people use food banks?

Published: 28th Apr 2017

In brief


The number of people using food banks since 2010 has gone from the tens of thousands to the millions.


The number of uses of Trussell Trust food banks has increased over this period from 41,000 to 1.2 million, but we don’t know how many individual people use food banks in total. The Trust estimates it had 560,000 users in 2016/17, but this won’t reflect the total number of people using food banks in the UK.

“Since, I think 2010, the number of people relying on food banks has gone up from the tens of thousands to the millions.”

BBC Question Time audience member, 27 April 2017

The number of uses of Trussell Trust food banks has gone up by this much, but we don’t actually know how many unique individuals rely on them.

The Trussell Trust is the largest food bank network in the UK, and it handed out around 41,000 food packs in 2009/10 compared to 1.2 million in 2016/17.

But some people will use a food bank more than once. The Trust says that the average person using a food bank will do so twice in a year, so it estimates that around 590,000 different people used its services in 2016/17.

A 2014 estimate suggested that the Trussell Trust’s food banks account for around half (420) of the food banks in the UK. That suggests the actual number of food parcels handed out across the UK, and the number of users of food banks, will be higher.

The number of food banks has also increased since 2010 so more people have access to a food bank now. That means we can’t be sure that the increasing use of food banks is due to increasing demand. It may be that demand has stayed the same but there are now more services available for people to use. We’re looking into the research that’s been done on this.

This factcheck is part of a roundup of BBC Question Time. Read the roundup.


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