Two thirds of people in food poverty not accessing foodbanks - local retailer launches campaign to tackle stigma

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The East of England Co-op is working with local foodbanks on a new campaign to bust common myths that can prevent people from accessing support.

According to Sustain UK 8.4 million people are living in food poverty, however Statista estimates that only 2.5 million people accessed foodbanks last year, suggesting that more than two thirds of people who need help with food aren’t getting it.

The East of England Co-op works closely with 24 local independent, Salvation Army and Trussell Trust foodbanks. As part of the retailer’s mission to deliver food justice for all in our region, they have been speaking to their partner foodbanks about what may be preventing people from accessing support.

Research conducted by the retailer suggests that there is often stigma around using foodbanks, which is partly due to myths that surround them.

The East of England Co-op’s partner foodbanks across Norfolk, Suffolk and Essex have helped to identify common myths about foodbanks, as well as revealing the true picture behind these perceptions. The East of England Co-op’s latest campaign will help to challenge the myths, outlined below:

Myth: ‘Foodbanks are just for the homeless and unemployed’

Reality: Foodbanks support those with complex financial and social needs. Individual circumstances can change dramatically for lots of reasons. Foodbanks support anyone who is facing a crisis and is unable to afford food for themselves or their families. Using a foodbank is a way for people to access emergency food, as well as vital support to help them regain control of their lives. 

Myth: ‘Foodbanks only offer one-off help’

Reality: Some people who use foodbanks attend regularly, for example if they are waiting for universal credit or if they are unemployed.

Myth: ‘Foodbanks just do food’

Reality: Foodbanks provide much more than food, offering other essential items including baby supplies, cleaning products, sanitary items and toiletries, pet food and PPE. Some foodbanks also provide heating and electricity support and financial advice, as well as signposting to other agencies and charities that can offer support to people at crisis point. 

Myth: ‘All foodbanks want is pasta and baked beans’

Reality: Everyone deserves access to food which keeps them healthy and well, so foodbanks need a range of food items to ensure they can support a nutritionally balanced diet. This includes tinned vegetables, UHT milk, tinned fruit and fruit juices. Many people who go to foodbanks have specific dietary needs or children to feed, so it’s important to offer a varied choice – so they don’t have the same products every week. 

Foodbanks have also highlighted that there are myths associated with the food they supply and what people can donate to their local foodbank. Next month, the local retailer will be responding to this by raising awareness of how customers can make the most difference with their donations, in a campaign called ‘Shop and Share’.

East of England Co-op Joint Chief Executive Niall O’Keeffe said: “Our region, along with the rest of the country, has faced unprecedented challenges over the past year and a half. Our foodbanks are a lifeline for those who are at crisis point so it’s vital that those in need know that this essential support is there for them.

“As a community retailer, we feel we have an important role to play in breaking down the stigma around foodbanks and busting the myths that can prevent people from using them.”

The East of England Co-op has been working with its communities on a number of initiatives to tackle the issue of food poverty. Since March 2020, the retailer has donated over £82,000 from its Community Cares Fund to foodbanks across the region. It also runs a series of foodbank summits, which are an opportunity to bring local foodbanks together to share ideas and best practice. The East of England Co-op is also part of Marcus Rashford’s Child Food Poverty Taskforce and has been topping up the value of Healthy Start vouchers in its stores since September 2020.

You can find out more about the East of England Co-op’s foodbank myth busting campaign at