Cost of living: Rapid rise in food poverty shows Britons skipping meals or going hungry with Portsmouth mum saying she 'lives in dread' over her family's financial stability

SHOCKING new data from a national charity campaigning to tackle food poverty shows a rapid rise in people skipping meals or going hungry as the cost of living soars.

By Hollie Busby
Wednesday, 11th May 2022, 1:50 pm

The Food Foundation, which is urgently calling on the government to make food insecurity a priority, reported 7.3m adults living in UK households went without food last month or physically couldn’t get it. This figure included 2.6 million children. This compares to 4.7m adults in January.

The organisation is calling on the government to take ‘urgent action’ before the crisis worsens by increasing benefits in line with the rate of inflation, expanding access to the UK’s free school meals scheme and rebalancing prices of food so healthy options are more affordable – among other aims.

The research by YouGov saw 10,674 adults surveyed online between April 22 and 29.

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Kathleen Kerridge

It found the number of people struggling to buy food has risen by 57 per cent in three months.

In Hampshire, the Trussell Trust’s foodbank network has also reported a ‘crazy’ spike in demand with the number of residents accessing local food banks.

Figures reveal food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network provided more than 2.1 million parcels nationwide from April 2021 to March 2022.

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This is up 14 per cent compared to the same period from 2019 to 2020.

Data from the Food Foundation found 12.8 per cent of households (6.8 million adults) have had smaller meals than usual or skipped meals because they couldn't afford or get access to food.

Kathleen Kerridge, from Portsmouth, is an office manager and a mum to three adult children, two of whom have moved out, and a 17-year-old child.

She now ‘lives in dread’ with the mental and physical toll the steep rise in cost of living is having on her health.

Her family have seen an ‘exponential increase’ in their gas and electric bills and she says it’s becoming ‘impossible’ to pay for essentials.

She told The News: ‘This time last year I was putting on mainly £25 a week in gas and £20 in electric so it's gone up £45 a week with high use.

‘Even now with those key meters I'm putting £40 a week on the electric and £30 on the gas. We don't get any benefits apart from child benefit.

‘With outgoings and the cost of living going up and the rent going up permanently it's becoming impossible.

‘I've hit the point where I'm in my mid-40s, I’m about to be a grandmother and I have to go round Lidl and check for penny price differences because if I can save just a bit, I have just that bit more security between me and homelessness or me and the food bank.

‘It's terrifying.’

Since the pandemic the financial strain on the family has worsened. Pre-pandemic, Kathleen had ‘some’ savings and wasn’t faced with the worry of not being able to afford dinner.

Now that’s been flipped on its head.

She explained: ‘What is absolutely soul destroying is I'm here literally not even able to fill a fruit bowl any more with prices being what they are.

‘How about getting these companies to pay instead of people that really can't afford it any more?

‘We're watching record profits go into government pockets as well. They're getting their profits and they're doing it by bleeding everyone else dry.

‘Something has to change there. The government need to be held accountable, companies need to be held accountable.’

Data from The Food Foundation shows a sharp increase in the proportion of households with children experiencing food insecurity in the past month at 17.2 per cent up from 12.1 per cent in January 2022.

This represents 2.6 million children under 18 who live in households that do not have access to a healthy and affordable diet, putting them at high risk of suffering from diet-related diseases.

Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation said the situation is ‘catastrophic’ for families and that it’s ‘rapidly turning from an economic crisis to a health crisis’.

She said: ‘Food insecurity puts families under extreme mental stress and forces people to survive on the cheapest calories which lead to health problems.

‘The situation is rapidly turning from an economic crisis to a health crisis.  Food banks cannot possibly be expected to solve this.  The government needs to realise the boat is sinking for many families and it needs to be fixed. Bailing out with emergency food parcels is not going to work.’

Kathleen says the government need to take responsibility by providing support, not just for children, but adults too.

She adds: ‘[The government] need to overhaul healthy start and access to free school meals. That has to include adults as well as making it a lot more expansive and accessible. Before the government allow any more energy price hikes, this profit margin needs to be looked at with Shell. In any functional country you should not be starving people while handing over £7.8b in profit.

‘It makes me feel really angry. We've got millionaires flying around in rockets while one of my friends literally can't even go to a food bank because her kids are special needs and they won't eat what's given at the food bank.

‘It's Victorian bloody London. I'm livid. I'm really angry that you're seeing decent hard working lovely people on the breadline panicking, losing their homes, losing their security, losing their stability while the government are laughing at us and the companies are fleecing us.

‘It's disgusting.’

The Food Foundation is also calling on government to set out long-term action to build the resilience of communities and food system to shocks, within a Good Food Bill in the approaching National Food Strategy White Paper.

They also want to expand free school meals, breakfast provision and Healthy Start vouchers to protect children from obesity and so all children in poverty benefit.