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Food bank interest surges with 250% increase in online searches: Labour analysis

(PA)
(PA)

Interest in food bank services has surged dramatically – with a 250% increase in online searches for “food banks near me” since March 2020, Labour Party analysis shows.

Ahead of his conference party speech, shadow work and pensions secretary Jonathan Ashworth visited the Big Help community group in Liverpool, which provides wrap-around services with food, employment, and debt support.

During his visit, Mr Ashworth revealed Labour’s analysis of Google trends data, which shows searches for “food bank near me” have increased by 250% compared with the first week of March 2020, immediately before the pandemic.

Labour Party Conference 2021
Jonathan Ashworth (Gareth Fuller/PA)

The research also shows searches for “energy bill help” have reached their highest level in at least the last five years.

Mr Ashworth said: “This weekend I visited the Big Help community group in Liverpool – who are going above and beyond to help people with the cost of living crisis – even turning their headquarters into a “warm bank” to help people avoid the cost of heating this winter.

“Never have so many families been forced to queue at food banks and asked for charity handouts.

“Energy bills have rocketed, food prices have risen and the Tories have imposed deep cuts to Universal Credit and pensions.”

He added: “Families and pensioners will be appalled that Liz Truss is prioritising tax cuts for the wealthiest while they continue to struggle to heat their homes or put food on the table.

“Labour would deliver a fairer, greener future by freezing energy prices – and we would pay for it with a windfall tax on the profits of oil and gas giants, not by forcing ordinary taxpayers to foot the bill down the line.”

The analysis also shows that searches for urgent help from universal credit have also dramatically increased.

Searches for “apply for universal credit” have increased by more than 50% compared with pre-pandemic and searches for “universal credit advance payment” have more than doubled compared with pre-pandemic.

The Google Trends data was accessed on September 20.