Latest figures from the Food Foundation see a 57% jump in the proportion of households cutting back on food or missing meals in just three months. The Food Foundation has been commissioning a series of YouGov surveys since the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak to regularly track food insecurity. This tenth round of the survey found that 7.3 million adults in April live in households that had gone without food in the past month compared to 4.7 million adults in January of this year.
The increased cost of living has been driven by the combination of high inflation eclipsing wage increases and planned tax increases. This crisis cannot be blamed on one cause but instead is a culmination of the war in Ukraine causing uncertainty over oil supplies pushing up prices plus the impact of sanctions, global shipping costs increasing due to reduced capacity during the pandemic combined with increased cost of shipping containers. Combine this with the government support during the pandemic ending, staff shortages as a fall out of both the pandemic and Brexit and shortages of goods across the world and the UK’s inflation rate has risen to a 30-year high.
In real terms, this equates to an average fuel bill increase of £693 annually as the energy cap goes up, 1.25p more in the pound in National Insurance contributions, increased food and petrol costs plus a 3.8% increase in rail fares across England and Wales. The Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that 600,000 people will be pulled into poverty and half of people on UC are behind on their bills or are facing a constant struggle to keep up with them.
This cost-of-living crisis has impacted food security. Low-income households are spending a larger proportion of their income on energy and food as prices rise and the Office for Budget Responsibility predicts we will see “the biggest fall in living standards in any single financial year since ONS records began.” Rising food prices, particularly for fresh produce, will have an impact on both households and the food aid sector. Staple groceries such as butter, tomatoes and apples have risen by 45% in the last year and value line products in supermarkets have been hit by far steeper price increases, again significantly impacting lower income households. It has been estimated that this increase in food prices could add an extra £180 to the average household’s food shop annually.
The Food Foundation predicts a further increase in food insecurity in the coming months as the cost-of-living crisis continues and the full impact of the National Insurance and Energy Bill cap are seen. The Food Foundation is calling on the government to increase benefits in line with inflation, ensure employers pay at least the real living wage, rebalance food prices as well as expanding food provision schemes for children.
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