The pandemic has magnified existing inequalities, leaving many families struggling for life's basics
Food poverty in the UK is at crisis levels – with a year of Covid magnifying the toxic legacy of austerity.
Households throughout the country are struggling to access the basics of survival 12 months into the pandemic.
For many families, the Covid crisis has hit hard on top of already deep inequalities.
A new report by the Food Foundation, released as part of the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign spearheaded by campaigning footballer Marcus Rashford, shows that food insecurity remains higher than pre-Covid levels affecting an estimated 4.7 million adults (9% of households) over the last six months. This compares to pre-Covid levels of 7.6%.
It found that 55% of those experiencing food insecurity (an estimated 2.5 million adults) said it was because they did not have enough money for food, while 31% said it was due to isolation, 23% said it was lack of access and supply and 8% cited other reasons in the last six months.
Households with children have higher levels of food insecurity compared to those without, with an estimated 2.3 million children living in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past six months. This represents 12% of households with children.
The situation is even worse in households with children on free school meals, where 41% have reported food insecurity in the past six months.
Foodbank use – which climbed steeply as a result of successive Tory-led governments’ austerity policies – continues to rise.
Nearly 1 million children (13%) aged eight-17 years reported that either they or their family had visited a foodbank since early December 2020. This has risen by two percentage points since the summer holidays.
The report shows the effects of the pandemic working on inequalities already experienced by other communities, such as those from BAME backgrounds and people with disabilities.
Report authors urge the UK government to make food security a priority to ensure the long-term health and resilience of the nation, moving away from short-term solutions, foodbanks and emergency food aid.
Poverty must be recognised as a root cause and must be addressed.
The actor Emma Thompson, ambassador for the Children’s Right2Food Campaign, said: “In the sixth richest economy in the world these figures speak for themselves. There is absolutely no need for any child to go hungry in the UK. The fact that they are and in increasing numbers suggests cracks in a broken food system that can and must be repaired as a matter of the utmost urgency. Apart from the moral duty we owe to children, this is a severe public health problem.”