'We’ve got empty shelves': Food bank’s stark warning as donations dry up

A Peeblesshire food bank has warned supplies are running out amid the escalating cost-of-living crisis. (Fiona Dalgleish)

With energy bills rocketing and the price of staples soaring upwards, many vulnerable families are finding themselves reaching breaking point.

And as the cost-of-living crisis continues to spiral, the organisations that help those most in need are struggling too.

At one food bank in Peeblesshire, supplies are running out.

Fiona Dalgleish, who manages the food bank, says the shortages mean food parcels handed out to clients may need to be cut down.

"For the first time since I’ve been at the food bank, we’ve got empty shelves," said Dalgleish.

The Trussell Trust food bank, located in the Scottish borders, is facing unprecedented demand.

Cuts to Universal Credit last October, rising energy bills, and spiralling inflation are driving an increase in need.

“I think we’re going to have to be less generous with people," she said.

Food bank usage is on the rise, with 2,537,198 people referred to food banks run by the Trussell Trust in 2020/2021 - up from 1,906,625 in 2019/2020.

Alongside an increase in demand, Dalgleish says there are two other contributing factors: the public's focus on supporting Ukrainians, and the cost-of-living crisis making people less able to provide donations.

"People’s attention has focused on Ukraine, maybe giving money to the charities that are helping with that situation, which is completely understandable," she said.

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foodbank users since 2014/2015
Food bank users have increased significantly in recent years. (Trussell Trust/Yahoo News UK)
Food bank usage in the last 12 months had risen significantly already, with 2,537,198 were referred to food banks run by the Trussell Trust in 2020/2021 - up from 1,906,625 in 2019/2020. (Fiona Dalgleish)

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"But I [also] think that the looming crisis of the cost of living has made people think: 'I would normally put in a tin of tomatoes - but, actually, I’ll maybe keep those tomatoes because I don’t know what’s coming for my family'," she said.

Elsewhere, Dalgleish says ministers do not understand the scale of need in the country.

“The government haven’t got a clue, I think they have not got a clue," she said.

"And that’s one of the things that worries me most, that there doesn’t seem to be anybody in the cabinet, or in any part of government, who actually has ever even vaguely thought about being hungry."

She added: "And the fact that they’ve just done that budget, the Spring Statement, with nothing that made any difference, I mean.. the whole situation I find it really upsetting."

Dalgleish joins the growing backlash to the chancellor's statement over the lack of support it provides to the most vulnerable.

Fiona Dalgleish said supplies were higher than they are now. (Fiona Dalgleish)

Last week the IPPR think tank called the mini-budget "woefully out of touch", describing it as a "missed opportunity" leaving the poorest families at risk of being pulled further into poverty and debt.

Paul Johnson, director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), said: “What was completely missing was anything for people on Universal Credit or the state pension, which is only going up by 3.1% this month when inflation will be around 8%. [It is] a big cut in living standards for those on the very lowest incomes.”

According to analysis from the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), households face the biggest fall in living standards on record.

Office for National Statistics (ONS) data shows inflation rose to 6.2% in the year to February 2022, the highest for three decades.

Sadie McCullough, food flow manager at the Trussell Trust, said food bank stock levels vary across the country but are coming under increasing strain.

Inflation has hit levels not seen in the UK for decades (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ONS)
Inflation has hit levels not seen in the UK for decades (Yahoo News UK/Flourish/ONS)

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“Food banks in our network have been overwhelmed by the public’s generous support over the pandemic, but the cost of living crisis means that demand is likely to go up and the volume of food, toiletries, and household items needed at some food banks could also increase," said McCoullough.

"Looking ahead, we are encouraging food banks in our network to hold additional stock where possible in preparation for any sharp increases in demand as a result of the cut to Universal Credit, rising energy prices and wider cost of living crisis.”

Watch: Spring Statement: What it means for your finances