Food insecurity poll finds 77% of WI members donate to food banks

The government needs to stop relying on volunteers to plug the food poverty gap, says the WI, as it publishes new research.

A survey of 4,287 WI members, conducted by the NFWI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes) over December, shows that 77% of WI members have donated to local food banks or community food aid, 67% of these in the last month.[i] 92% said that they had donated food, 17% said they had donated money, and 10% said they had donated time. 13% of WI members also said that they had donated other items, such as toiletries and sanitary ware.

The NFWI’s Food Matters campaign is calling for an end to food poverty in the UK, and as a first step would like the government to start measuring the scale of the problem, as well as appoint a minister dedicated to addressing the issue.[ii] With no government strategy currently in place, the NFWI fears that the estimated 1 in 10 adults and almost 1 in 4 parents with children aged 18 and under skipping meals because of lack of money[iii] will continue to face hunger.

Ann Jones, Vice Chair of the NFWI and Chair of the Public Affairs Committee said:

“Historically, the WI was at the frontline of supplying food to a country ravaged by war; but today it is clear that WI members are battling to tackle food insecurity on a very different front – via donations to food banks and soup kitchens.

“In the New Year, many people are feeling the household squeeze, but for many people in the UK this is not a position unique to the post-Christmas season.

“Food poverty is a very real issue, and we have found from our survey that WI members are taking the initiative and donating to food banks and other organisations in their communities. Whilst it is heartening to see the public stepping in like this, this is really just a sticking plaster and there is only so much that can be expected from civil society.

“We know that WI members have a strong sense of social responsibility but we were still taken aback by the sheer numbers of people who are contributing to food aid efforts. It seems that the government is not only leaving people to go hungry, but is also relying on the British public to plug the gaps it has left behind.

“We want to see the government take meaningful action to ensure individuals and families are not swept up into food poverty in the first place. As a first step, the NFWI would like the government to start measuring the scale of the problem, as well as appoint a dedicated Food Insecurity Minister to address the issue root and branch.”

Emma Revie, Chief Executive of The Trussell Trust said:

“We’re seeing the highest levels of need for food banks ever in our network, and it’s only with the generous support of people like WI members that food banks are able to provide vital emergency help. We are incredibly grateful to our army of volunteers and everyone who donates. But this help shouldn’t be needed – hunger in the UK is not right, and it’s not inevitable.

“We’re not only a country that cares about justice and compassion – these findings show we put those principles into real, tangible actions, like donating to a food bank. It’s time for the government to take similarly concrete steps by ensuring our benefits system anchors people from being swept into poverty. We can, and we must, move towards a UK with no need for food banks."

For more information or for media interviews please contact Joanna Rayner, Head of PR at the NFWI – j.rayner / 020 7371 9300

[i] WI members were polled as to whether or not they had recently donated to community food aid (such as a food bank, a soup or community kitchen, a community supermarket, a food donation point in the local supermarket etc). The poll was conducted between the 3rd December 2018 and the 7th January 2019.

[ii] The NFWI’s Food Matters campaign was launched following a resolution passed at the 2016 Annual Meeting. As part of the campaign, the NFWI is seeking government commitment to start measuring household insecurity, as well as appoint a minister dedicated to tackling the problem.


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