Advertisement
Social Justice

UK faces its ‘worst food crisis in a very long time’, expert warns

The number of people going hungry is the highest it has ever been since Food Foundation started recording the statistics 10 years ago.

The UK is facing its “worst food crisis in a very long time” with rising prices leaving “families on the lowest incomes with nowhere to go”, an expert has warned. 

Anna Taylor, CEO of the Food Foundation, told the UK Trade and Business Commission on Thursday that the number of people going hungry is the highest it has ever been since the charity started recording food insecurity 10 years ago.

Between January and April of this year, the Food Foundation recorded a 57 per cent increase in people going hungry. In April, 7.3 million adults and 2.6 million children said they had gone without food or could not physically get it that month.

Taylor said: “We’re extremely concerned by the speed of that deterioration but also what this means for families going forward and the knock-on impacts on their health and wellbeing and, of course, the health and wellbeing of their children.

“It’s important to remember that children are growing and their bodies need nutrients at particular points to reach their full potential, whether that’s their physical growth or their brain development.”

Taylor said there has been a huge spike in childhood obesity coming out of the pandemic and the cost of living crisis brings a range of health concerns. People living in poverty are more likely to opt for the cheapest food over the healthiest, studies have found

Advertisement
Advertisement
Break the cycle of poverty for good
Big Futures is calling on the Government to put in place a plan and policies to break this cycle of poverty for good. We are calling for long-term solutions to meet the biggest issues faced in the UK today – the housing crisis, low wages and the climate crisis. Dealing with these issues will help the UK to protect the environmental, social, economic and cultural wellbeing of future generations. So that young people and future generations have a fair shot at life. Join us and demand a better future.

“The affordability of eating in a way that protects our health is deteriorating very rapidly,” Taylor added. “Forecasts are very gloomy.”

Taylor and other experts speaking to the commission warned that Brexit, the war in Ukraine and climate change are likely to make the food crisis worse in coming months and years.

“While this is the worst food crisis we’ve seen in a very long time,” she said. “Let’s not forget we have seen three food [price] spikes in the last 15 years. This is something we need to get used to because of climate change.”

James Withers, the CEO of trade association Scotland Food and Drink, added that “millions of acres [of land] are going to become unproductive as a result of global warming, dwindling supplies, and food systems will start to break down”. 

Subscribe to The Big Issue

Support us

Take a print or digital subscription to The Big Issue and provide a critical lifeline to our work.

He also said that Brexit is having serious implications on supply chains and the food industry which, in turn, is exacerbating the cost of living crisis.

The government released a food strategy earlier this month promising to set out “long-term measures to support a food system that offers access to healthy and sustainable food for all”. 

But Taylor claimed this strategy “reflected a real lack of confident leadership on this issue”. She said that the government should be looking to take immediate action on widening the free school meals scheme because many children living in poverty “miss out because they are not quite poor enough”. 

Taylor said she would like to see the benefit system become more responsive to inflation and be reviewed on a quarterly rather than annual basis. “At the moment,” she explained, “we’ve got this big lag time which has a very material effect day to day on the lowest income families.”

The UK’s welfare system has repeatedly come under fire for not doing enough to support people through hardship. Universal credit rose by 3.1 per cent in April, while inflation currently stands at 9.1 per cent – the highest rate in 40 years.

“There are some nice goals set out that are ambitions for the food system, but they carry no weight,” Taylor continued. “We need these goals to have a legal or statutory footing which actually sets the agenda for change past this government and for successive governments. That’s what we’re lacking at the moment.”

Advertisement

Every copy counts this Christmas

Your local vendor is at the sharp end of the cost-of-living crisis this Christmas. Prices of energy and food are rising rapidly. As is the cost of rent. All at their highest rate in 40 years. Vendors are amongst the most vulnerable people affected. Support our vendors to earn as much as they can and give them a fighting chance this Christmas.

Recommended for you

Read All
National protests to take place demanding government action on soaring energy bills
Cost of living crisis

National protests to take place demanding government action on soaring energy bills

What is a warm bank and why are they needed this winter?
Cost of living crisis

What is a warm bank and why are they needed this winter?

What is fuel poverty? The causes, statistics and solutions in the UK
Cost of living crisis

What is fuel poverty? The causes, statistics and solutions in the UK

Don't Pay UK: Why are people cancelling their energy bills?
Energy bills

Don't Pay UK: Why are people cancelling their energy bills?

Most Popular

Read All
Here's when and where nurses are going on strike
1.

Here's when and where nurses are going on strike

Pattie Boyd: 'I was with The Beatles and everything was fabulous'
2.

Pattie Boyd: 'I was with The Beatles and everything was fabulous'

Here's when people will get the additional cost of living payment
3.

Here's when people will get the additional cost of living payment

Why do people hate Matt Hancock? Oh, let us count the ways
4.

Why do people hate Matt Hancock? Oh, let us count the ways