The affluent Essex city where thousands of children rely on essential food supplies

Thousands in Essex are requiring support from food banks. File image
Thousands in Essex are requiring support from food banks. File image -Credit:Derby Telegraph

New figures have identified Colchester as the hotspot for emergency food parcels provided to people in Essex. Hundreds of thousands of parcels were given to people in the East of England region between April 2023 and March 2024, including more than 135,000 for children.

This is the highest number of parcels distributed in a single year by the food banks in the charity’s network in the East of England. It also represents a shocking 129% increase in the total support provided compared to five years ago.

Bedford was the highest authority area for parcels distributed in the last 12 months, followed by Colchester. A total of 23,394 have been handed out across the district, including more than 9,000 for children.

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Southend-on-Sea (4th) was also in the top five with 19,932 parcels distributed in total and 7,968 for children. The Trussell Trust warns that the picture is unlikely to change in 2024/25 unless bold action is taken as the government’s additional cost of living payments have come to an end, leaving many people at a financial cliff edge.

Alarmingly, two thirds (68%) of all support provided by food banks in the Trussell Trust network in the East of England last year was for families with children. Furthermore, the charity reports that far too many people who previously didn’t need to turn to a food bank are now left with no other option.

Although families with children and working-age adults are still overrepresented at food banks, the charity has also seen an increase in parcels going to pension-age households in the region. Rising poverty among pensioners, especially those still renting, means that more older people are finding themselves unable to afford essentials and facing hunger and severe hardship.

The Trussell Trust is warning that the next UK Government cannot afford to ignore this issue. Ahead of the coming general election, it is urging all political leaders to set out how they will build a future where no one needs a food bank to survive.

Emma Revie, Chief Executive at the Trussell Trust said: "It’s 2024 and we’re facing historically high levels of food bank need. As a society, we cannot allow this to continue. We must not let food banks become the new norm. As we approach the next UK General Election, we urgently need all political leaders to set out how they will build a future where no one needs a food bank to survive.

"Voters want to see a change and we need cross-government action at all levels to deliver it. We know what's pushing people to food banks, so we know what needs to change. A supportive social security system is the bedrock on which we end hunger for good. Building on this, we need much more effective employment and financial support for parents, carers and disabled people and action to ensure everyone can have the security we all need to access opportunities and have hope for the future, through more secure and flexible jobs and investment in social housing.

"Food banks are not the answer. They will be there to support people as long as they are needed, but our political leaders must take bold action to build a future where everyone has enough money to afford the life’s essentials. The time to act is now."

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