• Food Bank Volunteer Hours Research

    In collaboration with the Trussell Trust, IFAN produced the first study of the extent and value of volunteer contributions within the Trussell Trust network and independent food banks in the Autumn of 2017. Together, we found that volunteers across the UK are giving 'at least £30 million' a year in unpaid work to support food banks.


    The research, the first of its kind, found that volunteers do a staggering 2,909,196 hours of unpaid work each year distributing food. Calculating the value of such work using the National Living Wage, currently set at £7.50 an hour for the over 25s, this equates to £21,818,967 a year; or 55,945 hours, with a value of £419,587, each week.

    The study also found volunteers are doing a further 1,208,602 hours of additional tasks per year, including stock-taking, fundraising, picking up and delivering food, inputting data, and other work, worth £9,064,516 alone.

    Taken together, the 4,117,798 hours of volunteer work each year contributes at least £30,883,482 to the effort to tackle Britain’s hunger crisis.

    Professor Jon May, Chair of the Independent Food Aid Network’s Board of Trustees, said today:


    ‘IFAN supports the efforts of the thousands of food banks, and tens of thousands of volunteers, working so hard to help feed their communities. But we call on Government to stop relying on food banks, and to accept its responsibilities for Britain’s hunger crisis. As citizens we enter into a contract. In exchange for our financial contributions, Government is required to ensure sufficient support is available to all, so that no one needs to rely on charity to feed themselves or their families. That contract has been broken. Even as Government plan £12billion in cuts to social security benefits by 2019/20 1 , some of our largest companies continue to avoid paying their fair share in tax. We now know that, though we already pay £11 billion a year to subsidise a low-wage economy 2 because employers are not paying people enough to live on, volunteers up and down the country are providing a further £30million a year in ’free’ labour to ensure that our fellow citizens in low paid work, on zero hour contracts, or relying on a broken benefits system have enough to eat. Whilst we must continue to support those in need, we must also – and urgently - advocate for fundamental change.’

    Samantha Stapley, Head of Operations, for The Trussell Trust, said today:

    ‘It’s astonishing to see a value put to the amazing and tireless work done by foodbank volunteers up and down the UK. It’s a testament to the power and generosity of communities. Without them, foodbanks in The Trussell Trust network would not have been able to give nearly 1.2 million emergency food supplies to people in crisis last year. And without this vital community support hundreds of thousands of people would be hungry, and with nowhere to turn. But it is equally important to remember that whilst food bank volunteers do inspiring work, they cannot replace the welfare safety net. Issues with benefit payments remain the main reason why people need a foodbank parcel, and with issues caused by Universal Credit increasingly reported by foodbanks as a concern, we urge the Government to take steps to make sure people don’t face going hungry in the UK today.’


    The research was devised and carried out collaboratively between researchers at The Trussell Trust and IFAN, with counsel from academics at Queen Mary University of London. A randomised sample of 300 Trussell Trust and independent foo bank centres was created and weighted according to the total number of Trussell Trust and independent foodbank centres, to create a representative sample for survey. Sample centres were asked 3 short questions about: the average number of volunteers per session; their hours of distribution, including set-up and packing-away time; and any additional volunteer hours spent doing ‘behind the scenes’ work (liaising with donors, picking up and sorting food, delivering food parcels, fund raising, and paperwork). The monetary value of this volunteer work was calculated by multiplying the number of volunteer hours by the National Living Wage.

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