NEW DATA released by The Food Foundation reports that 8.8 per cent of households (4.7 million adults) have experienced food insecurity in the past month. This has increased from 7.3 per cent in July 2021.

The data also reveals that 3.6 per cent (1 million adults) reported that they, or someone in their household, has had to go a whole day without eating in the past month because they couldn’t afford or access food (up from 2.6 per cent in July).

This clearly shows that soaring energy and food prices, along with the removal of the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, are having a devastating impact on millions of people across the UK.

The data shows that 16 per cent of UK households have had to cut back on the quality or quantity of food to afford other essentials (e.g. energy bills). Meanwhile 59 per cent of households are worried that increased energy prices will mean they have less money to afford enough food for themselves/their family.

The British Retail Consortium have also warned that prices will continue to rise and at a faster rate than last year.

Children’s food insecurity

There has also been also a significant rise in the number of households with children experiencing food insecurity in the past month to 12.1 per cent, up from 11.0 per cent in July 2021. This represents a total of 2 million children who live in households that do not have access to a healthy and affordable diet which puts them at high risk of suffering from diet related diseases, poor child growth and shorter lives.

Parents are also more worried about feeding their children school lunches now than they were in August 2020. Among  parents with children aged 8 to 16 in the household who are not registered for free school meals,4.9 per cent are worried their children will have to go without lunch some days because they cannot afford school meals/packed lunches, compared with 1.1 per cent in August 2020.

The Food Foundation is calling on Government to make tackling food insecurity central to the levelling up agenda.Anna Taylor, the orgnisation’s Executive Director, said: “The Levelling Up white paper commits to boosting productivity, pay and job security but does not commit to reducing food insecurity rates. Food insecurity is a vital measure if we are to monitor severe material deprivation. It contributes not only to health inequalities and life expectancy, but also social wellbeing. If the Government wants to really get to grips with the issue, a comprehensive approach to levelling-up must tackle food insecurity head on.”

There is little doubt that the cost of living crisis is putting is very real pressure on the ability of many to afford a healthy diet and is set to widen health inequalities further unless the Government acts now.

At risk groups

The data also shows worrying trends and identifies groups who are most at risk of food poverty as food prices rise. People limited a lot by disabilities are five times more at risk than people not limited by disabilities (31.1 per cent vs 6.4 per cent).

Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK said: “The rapid escalation in Disabled people experiencing food poverty is truly shocking. It is the Disabled people facing the biggest barriers to independence and inclusion that are in the worst situation, how can this possibly be acceptable?

“With rising energy bills, increasing inflation and benefits pegged at a horrendously low level, millions of Disabled people are living in conditions comparable to the nineteenth century work house.”

Another major concern highlighted by the latest data is that people who are currently on Universal Credit are five times more likely to be food insecure in the past six months than people not on Universal credit. This shows that it is vital that Government moves to ensure that benefits are linked to the cost of a healthy diet and extends schemes such as Healthy Start and Free School Meals so they benefit all children in food insecure households.

Food insecurity (sometimes referred to as food poverty) is the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food. To assess the impact of household food insecurity across the UK, The Food Foundation has been commissioning a series of nationally representative surveys since the outbreak of the Covid pandemic. It tracks and reports on people’s experiences of food insecurity, particularly focusing on at risk groups such as families, BAME and ethnic groups, people with disabilities and children on free school meals.

* The Food Foundation food insecurity tracker is here.

* Read the Food Foundation’s response to the Levelling-up white paper, Levelling Up on Regional Dietary Inequalities: A Data Story here.

* Source: Food Foundation