One In Four Households Now Affected By Food Poverty, Charity Finds

This is even more than the number who went hungry during the first Covid lockdown.
The cost of living crisis is pushing more people into food poverty
The cost of living crisis is pushing more people into food poverty
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A quarter of UK households are now in food poverty, according to charity findings.

The Food Foundation, set up in 2014, conducted a survey among 4,280 UK adults in September and found that the number of families skipping meals or not eating for a whole day is rising.

Food Foundation’s chair, Laura Sandys, said that food poverty “has been going on for decades” primarily at exceptionally low food income levels.

Speaking to BBC Newsnight on Monday, she said: “What we’ve seen in the last four, five years is a steady increase.

“Then we have Covid, which took it to another level, but actually shone a spotlight on the issue and now we’re seeing 9% in January this year of food insecure households now has risen to 25% – one in four households.”

This is compared to just 14% during the first two weeks of the 2020 Covid lockdown, when supermarkets’ supply chains were disrupted due to the nationwide shutdown.

Once Covid support was introduced by the government – the £20 a week hike in universal credit, the furlough and the funding of emergency food to food banks – food insecurity levels fell to between 7 and 8%.

But, this has all been under threat since January, with much of the Covid backing removed and the growing cost of living crisis exacerbated by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

By May, Food Foundation found that 2.4 million people have not eaten for a whole day because they could not afford or get access to food.

The charity also found that 9.7 million adults ate less or skipped meals in September. This works out to be 18% of all households, and 54% of homes on universal credit.

Around 11% of UK households said they were not eating despite being hungry, and 6% said they had not eaten for a whole day. Four million children were found to be living in households that experienced food insecurity in September.

The Food Foundation also found that families were cutting out healthier products and buying less food amid the budget squeeze.

It’s calling on the government to extend access to free school meals, too, to an additional 800,000 children, to all families receiving universal credit.

Another charity Chefs In Schools also found that half of primary schools were providing meals for children in poverty who were not actually eligible for free school meals.

More than two thirds were referring parents to food banks, and just under 50% were offering food packages for families.

Chefs in Schools chief executive Naomi Duncan said: “This situation is appalling and getting so much worse.”

This is all against the backdrop of more real-terms cuts to benefits which the government has not yet ruled out amid the current economic crisis.

Downing Street is said to be considering increasing benefits in line with pay rises rather than with inflation. This works out to be a real-terms cut, especially as inflation is at a 40-year high and wages have been static for years due to austerity.

“Heat or eat” has become a more frequently used phrase amid fears about rising energy bills.

UK Food Standards Agency has adopted food insecurity as a metric which explains how many people go hungry because they can’t afford food or have no access.

According to The Guardian, the government’s spokesperson said that the “most vulnerable” are still the priority, and said they were being protected by £1,200 of direct payments.

“In addition, vulnerable families in England are being supported by the government’s Household Support Fund – which was boosted by £500m – to help pay for essentials and latest figures show that there were 200,000 fewer children in absolute poverty after housing costs compared to 2019/20.”


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