Nearly nine per cent of households – 4.7 million adults – are struggling to get the food they need, The Food Foundation found.
The data comes amid concerns over the government’s levelling up white paper, which does not commit to reducing food insecurity rates despite it being a “vital measure” in monitoring severe material deprivation.
Anna Taylor, executive director of the charity, said: “If the government wants to really get to grips with the issue, a comprehensive approach to levelling up must tackle food insecurity head on.”
People classed as food insecure might have smaller meals than usual or skip them altogether due to difficulties affording or accessing food, even when they are hungry.
The number of households with children facing difficulty has increased from 11 per cent in July last year to 12.1 per cent as of last month, meaning two million children live in families struggling to access healthy, nutritious food.
Households relying on universal credit are five times more likely to have experienced food insecurity in the past six months, researchers found.
Meanwhile disabled people were particularly affected, with figures showing they were five times more likely to face food insecurity in the past month alone than others.
The “rapid escalation” in food poverty among disabled people is “truly shocking”, said Kamran Mallick, CEO of Disability Rights UK. “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.”
The cost of living crisis is having a “devastating” impact on millions, the Food Foundation analysts said, with many already facing increased hardship after the £20-per-week universal credit cut.
Around 62 per cent of UK households are already paying increased energy bills, while 16 per cent are cutting back on the quality or quantity of food they buy in order to afford other essentials such as utilities.
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