Surge in ‘no cooking needed’ food bank parcel requests
There has been a 57% jump in the proportion of households cutting back on food or missing meals altogether in the last three months as prices have spiralled.
As foodbanks see a rise in demand, they’re also reporting an increasing number of people requesting products which don’t need to be cooked as they curb gas and electricity use to save money.
According to data from The Food Foundation, it revealed 7.3 million households reported they had gone without food or could not physically get it in April. This is up from the 4.7 million from January, and now includes 2.6 million children.
As such, 6.8 million adults have had smaller meals than usual or have skipped meals because they couldn’t afford or access food. The Foundation also found 4.6 million adults have not eaten despite being hungry because of rising costs, and for 2.4 million, they’ve gone without food for a day.
This food insecurity has risen as at times when income is affected by other financial demands, food is often the first expenditure to be cut when disposable income is tight, the Foundation said.
The rise in energy bills, as well as petrol and food prices amid the backdrop of increasing inflation mean that benefit levels haven’t kept up, so income is insufficient for food bills.
The Foundation is also concerned that the prices of budget ranges of staple foods may have increased at a faster rate, so the impact on low-income families “may be worse”.
Further, this reliance on lower cost foods which tend to be “calorie dense and nutrient poor”, could increase obesity and other diet-related diseases, the group warned.
It said reducing food insecurity is essential if the government is to achieve an improvement in healthy life expectancy and reduced health disparities.
‘Situation turning from an economic crisis to a health crisis’
Anna Taylor, executive director of The Food Foundation, said: “The extremely rapid rise in food insecurity since January points to a catastrophic situation for families. 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.”
Vic Borrill, director of Brighton & Hove Food Partnership, added: “The number of meals and food parcels delivered by Emergency Food Network members continues to rise as the cost of living increases and household incomes decrease. We are seeing increasing numbers of people who have never needed a food bank before and getting more requests for ‘no cook food’ as people self-disconnect from their energy meters to manage their money. This is not sustainable, and the situation is desperate.”
The Foundation is calling on the government to increase benefits in line with inflation, rebalance food prices so healthy food is the most affordable, and expand free school meals.