Food banks are increasingly concerned about the impact of Brexit on the poorest and most vulnerable people in the UK.
The government’s Operation Yellowhammer papers, published last night, revealed ‘vulnerable groups’ and ‘low-income’ families will be most affected by food price increases in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
It also stated: ‘There is a risk that panic buying will cause or exacerbate food supply disruption.’
The Trussel Trust – the NGO responsible for food banks up and down the country – today told Metro.co.uk a no-deal Brexit poses the ‘most immediate and severe’ risk to food supply and prices.
It warns that people who are already struggling to put food on the table will be the least able to keep up with the rising cost of living.
The charity said it is concerned that the risk to food supplies will affect the donations it relies on to help people in poverty survive.
Trussell Trust policy director Garry Lemon said: ‘Any form of Brexit risks increasing the cost of food and essentials, and therefore increasing the need for food banks.
‘We’re giving Brexit guidance to food banks – but there’s a limit to how much we can prepare for and mitigate its consequences.
‘The responsibility to prevent more people being pulled into poverty lies with our Government.
‘We cannot and should not rely on support driven by volunteers and food donations to pick up the pieces, particularly in the event of no-deal.
‘To anchor people from poverty as Brexit unfolds, our Government must ensure additional protections such as a dedicated hardship fund are in place throughout, restore the value of benefits to deal with a potential cost of living increase alongside ending the five-week wait for Universal Credit payment.’
Audrey Flannagan, manager at the Glasgow South East Foodbank in Scotland, said she is concerned that people stockpiling for themselves may affect donations.
She said: ‘Given that we work on donations it is hard to put into place a plan and the uncertainty makes it very difficult, we can’t cut the amount of food we give out as it is set for dietary requirements.’
The people she sees using the food bank includes families, workers and those on benefits, adding: ‘In a nutshell anyone at all who is in a place of crisis’.
In the first quarter of the year Audrey’s service saw a 30 per cent rise in users.
She said: ‘The biggest priority for us is reducing poverty and the need for emergency food.
‘Our concerns are that Brexit could increase both.’
Susannah Yarde, who runs the Kensington and Chelsea Foodbank out of Notting Hill Methodist Church, said she too fears stockpiling for no-deal might have an impact on donations.
She said the food bank doesn’t currently have enough food to meet its demand despite opening in October last year in one of London’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.
Asked who uses the food bank, Susannah said: ‘Various people, from out of work, in between jobs, people who have had ill-health, refugees, those suffering from domestic abuse to mention a few…’
The Trussel Trust said current planning around crisis responses focuses on operational processes for food banks to bear in mind – for example working with local authorities with their resilience planning, partnership working with other agencies, and working with other local food banks to redistribute stock if necessary or possible.
But it argues that emergency food aid should not be the answer and fears the government will increasingly rely on the charity to provide for people struggling to afford to eat as the UK leaves the EU.
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