Reality Check

Does Germany have more food banks than the UK?

A helper sorts food at the distribution site of the "Essener Tafel" food bank distributing food to people in need in Essen, western Germany, on February 23, 2018 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Food is sorted at a food bank in Essen, Germany

Claim: There are more food banks in Germany than there are in the UK.

Verdict: We have not been able to find any evidence to support this claim. According to available statistics, Germany has about 2,000 food distribution centres - the same as the UK.

Short presentational grey line

As Labour launched its election campaign on Tuesday, party leader Jeremy Corbyn pledged to end food-bank use within five years.

Speaking on the BBC's Politics Live programme afterwards, Paul Scully, Conservative Party deputy chairman and candidate for Sutton, Cheam and Worcester Park, said: "There's more in Germany than there are in the UK."

Is this true?

Food banks provide food to those who may otherwise go hungry - and the number of parcels handed out has climbed in recent years.

Labour wants to make sure people don't need them any more. Mr Scully said the Conservatives also "want to make sure that people have less need for them, certainly, but you can't just ban them".

There are 2,000 food-bank locations in the United Kingdom, according to a House of Commons briefing paper published in October.

The Trussel Trust charity runs 1,200 of these and handed out 1,583,668 three-day emergency food parcels in 2019-19, up 18.8% from the previous year.

Food parcels distributed by Trussel Trust in the UK

Approximately 60% of UK food banks

Year runs from April to March
Source: Trussel Trust

Unlike the UK, there is a national food-bank organisation in Germany, known as the Tafel - the German word for table.

It runs more than 940 individual "food banks" in the network - but many operate more than one distribution centre, as do some of those in the UK.

In terms of actual distribution centres, Germany has about 2,000 - the same as the UK.

But Germany's population is significantly larger - with 83 million people compared with the UK's 66.6 million (about 25% more).

Mr Scully said: "I suspect I was using out-of-date figures because Germany has a longer established usage of food banks, as far as I understand.

"So although the number of food banks in the UK has caught up with the number of locations in Germany, more people have been using them over the last few years."

Germany's Tafel organisation estimates it feeds some 1.6 million people regularly.

But that cannot be directly compared with the 1.6 million food parcels handed out by the Trussel Trust. Parcels do not necessarily equal people and some people will use a food bank more than once.

And neither country's statistics can fully account for other food aid: those smaller charitable ventures such as spontaneously organised food runs or those set up by local communities or churches.

This piece has been updated to reflect the latest UK population statistics.

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