Soaring food bank use: the growing reality of hunger in ‘rich’ countries

Hunger is now a plague that affects even the richest countries.

More people are going hungry and relying on aid to feed their families in the world’s wealthiest countries.

The United Kingdom offers a stark example, as Human Rights Watch has documented. Since cuts in public spending on welfare for the poorest families began in 2010, use of the country’s largest network of food banks — making up an estimated two-thirds of the country’s food aid distribution - has skyrocketed 50-fold to 1.6 million three-day emergency packages handed out this year. Smaller independent food aid providers have gone from a handful countrywide a decade ago to around 850 today.

Schools, nurseries, community centres, local charities and faith groups have stepped in to fill gaps resulting from a decade of cuts. Today, many provide food to vulnerable families, often with working parents, even making sure that children get one warm meal a day during school holidays.

The UK is not alone. Germany’s Tafel network of around 940 food banks (or food tables), which opened in 1993, gave food to 1.65 million people this year. It has seen steady rises in demand over the past decade-and-a-half, with more and morewomen, children, and older people needing food aid.

In France, the Restos du Coeur (Restaurants of the Heart) network, gave out around 130 million meals in 2017-18 (the last year for which they have figures) through their emergency food aid program. One-third of such aid was directed to single parent families, and there is increasing concern about older people left to rely on their aid.

Analysts who have studied how food banks have become a feature of daily life over decades in the United States and Canada have warned that without a clear strategy to tackle hunger and improve social security, emergency food aid is likely to become permanent