The COVID-19 crisis is worsening food insecurity in the UK

Today, with the Food Foundation, we’ve published a preliminary analysis of vulnerability to food insecurity since the COVID-19 lockdown in the UK. This analysis uses data from a YouGov survey commissioned by the Food Foundation and collected over 7-9 April 2020. It complements headline figures on the numbers experiencing food insecurity since the lockdown: 3 million adults reporting hunger and a total of 8.1 million with experiences of food insecurity.

This analysis shows that the COVID-19 crisis has exacerbated food insecurity for groups already vulnerable to it. These include adults who are unemployed, adults with disabilities, adults with children, and adults from Black, Asian and other Minority Ethnic groups. We see that not only are these groups experiencing food insecurity because of not having enough money for food, they are also more likely to be experiencing food insecurity because of the lack of food in shops and/or because they cannot go out for food and don’t have other ways of acquiring. 

We also see new drivers of food insecurity at this time. People who have lost 25% or more of their regular income as a result of the COVID-19 crisis are at much higher risk of not having enough money for food. People who are self-isolating, whether for 12 weeks or for short-periods of time, are also more likely to have gone without food because they couldn't go out to acquire it. They are also at risk of not having enough money for food.

A lack of food in shops has also driven up food insecurity: about 6% of adults reported experiences of food insecurity attributed only to being unable to get what they needed from shops. But this still left an additional 10% of adults experiencing food insecurity for economic, isolation, and other reasons, possibly alongside food supply issues.

These data show just how swiftly the COVID-19 crisis is impacting food insecurity in Britain, whether due to a lack of money, supermarket shortages, or following the Government's guidance to self-isolate. It is critical that food reaches the millions who are trying to follow guidelines to stay home. But it is also critical that all households economically affected, whether due to increased expenses of having family members home, loss of incomes, or struggling to make low incomes stretch at even tougher times, urgently receive enhanced financial support to be able to ensure enough food for them and their families.