Trussell Trust who run over 423 Food Banks in the UK ( currently zero in Derby) declared in their 2013/14 report that they handed out parcels to 913,138 people. This is a very precise figure. I queried with them whether the figure actually represented the number of unique people who had a requirement for a food parcel in the 12 month period, or the number of visits that were made to their 423+ Food Banks. Various politicians and public individuals have clearly interpreted this as being unique people.
Their response was very telling
- They do not record unique users – so therefore they should not report it as such. They should report visits, not people.
- If they use sampling as a proxy then they should state it. It would be advisable not to quote a precise number. By their own admission only “65%+” were helped, once, which implies the rest were helped more than once in a 6 month period. How much does this percentage reduce by over a 12 month period?
- A sample which covers a period of 6 months when the measure is over 12 months is likely to produce incorrect results.
- The Trussell Trust measure is strict. It is 913,138 people who have had one parcel over a 12 month period
There are clear statements about the increase from the previous year. Perhaps the number of people has not increased , just the number of visits they make, or a combination of the two. If 3 days emergency food actually solved someone’s problem, then their problem was not fundamental. My experiences of local food bank operations is that many people need support for sustained periods ( particularly if they have been sanctioned) together with advice to recover financially. So, if one is sanctioned for several weeks, then it could easily be many visits ( given that one visit = 3 day parcel)
I am not denying that Food Banks are a major issue. A prominent Food bank issuing statistics that do not seem to withstand a simple level of challenge is not helpful in tackling the Government about the underlying causes. If precise figures are going to be published then precise figures should be recorded.
Categories: Food Distribution