Food Distribution

Trussell Trust Food Bank statistics – Misleading

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.


Extract from Trussell Trust report


Twitter conversation with Trussell Trust

Their response was very telling

  1. They do not record unique users – so therefore they should not report it as such. They should report visits, not people.
  2. 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?
  3. 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.




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