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Covid money worries cause spike in food poverty

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02/03/2021
Around 2.5m adults are in ‘food insecurity’ because they don’t have enough money for food, a new report from the Food Foundation has revealed.

The Crisis Within A Crisis report found that food insecurity has affected around 4.7m adults in the UK, the equivalent of 9% of households, over the last six months. This ranges from mild insecurity, where you may be worrying about the ability to obtain food, to severe food insecurity where you are going hungry.

The level of food insecurity has jumped significantly from pre-Covid levels, when around 7.6% of households were in some form of insecurity.

And money worries are at the heart of the issue. According to the report, around 55% of those experiencing food insecurity ‒ an estimated 2.5m adults ‒ said their issues were the result of not having enough money for food. This compares to 31% whose insecurity centred on isolation, while for one in four (23%) it was down to a lack of access and supply.

The Food Foundation pointed out that while the government has introduced a host of financial support schemes as a result of the pandemic, including the £20 uplift to Universal Credit, more than one in five (22%) households have seen their incomes drop over the last 12 months.

Households with children were found to have higher levels of food insecurity than those without, with the report suggesting that an estimated 2.3m children live in households which have experienced food insecurity in the last six months. That’s around 12% of households with children. 

This position is even worse for households with children on free school meals, with 41% reporting recent food insecurity.

The report makes three recommendations for improving the levels of food security across the UK. 

  • Urgently review free school meals, to ensure that disadvantaged children are not excluded by the eligibility threshold.
  • The government should make the Universal Credit uplift permanent, while businesses should pay staff at least the Real Living Wage.
  • Designate someone within government who is responsible for monitoring and tackling food security

Anna Taylor, executive director of Food Foundation, said: “We should now move to a longer-term package of support for food insecure households and away from emergency measures. Making the £20 uplift to Universal Credit permanent is a vital part of this package, as is extending free school meals to all children in food insecure households. The long-term effects of food insecurity on mental and physical health mean that children can’t wait.”

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