Social Justice

Cost of living crisis: Three quarters of Britons worried about rising cost of food, study finds

One in six people are now relying on food banks to get by, up from one in 10 in 2021.

Cost of living crisis

Food banks are seeing unprecedented demand. Image: Aaron Doucett/Unsplash

The sky-rocketing price of food in the UK is a big worry for the vast majority of Britons as the cost of living crisis deepens, new research by the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has found. 

More than three quarters of people (76 per cent) responding to an FSA survey said that rising food prices were a “major future concern” for them.

Individuals living with long-term health conditions, women, and people from Black, Asian, and Minority Ethnic backgrounds were more likely to express anxiety about the cost of food, the study found.

The number of people relying on food banks in order to survive has rapidly increased over the last year, the study found, with one in six (15 per cent) people using a food bank in March this year, compared to one in ten (9 per cent) in the previous year.

Similarly, data from The Trussell Trust published in April shows that the number of food parcels given out by the charity has risen 14 per cent in the last year, compared to the year before the pandemic.

Food banks across the UK have said that they are rapidly running out of food, with some forced to ration what they give out and use financial reserves as donations continue to drop.

More than 6,000 people across the UK responded to the FSA’s online survey in January this year. The research was supported by individual interviews, including among vulnerable and minority groups.

One woman who took part in the FSA survey said she was anxious about feeding her family properly. “I worry about the affordability of buying food – with inflation and no pay rises for workers,” she said.

Another said the rising price of food was “scary”.

Inflation rose to 9 per cent in April, its highest level in forty years, while food prices have continued to rise rapidly. The cost of value-brand pasta rose by 50 per cent in April, for example, while crisps and bread rose by 17 and 16 per cent respectively, according to the Office for National Statistics.

Food banks playing ‘vital role’ amid cost of living crisis

ONS figures also reveal that the average pay for workers fell by 2.9 per cent in March, the biggest drop since November 2011.

Last month Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced measures aimed at curbing the cost of living crisis, including a non-means-tested grant of £400 per household to help with energy bills. 

In an article for The Big Issue, food bank manager Charlotte White said that while the government support was welcome, it “won’t be enough to reduce the need for charitable food for the long-term”.

The FSA said it is working with businesses to make donating to food banks as simple as possible and helping food bank staff to store and prepare food safely.

“In the face of the immediate pressures on people struggling to buy food, food banks are playing a vital role in our communities,” said Susan Jebb, chair of the FSA.

“We are urgently working with industry and other major donors, and food bank charities, to look at what more we can do together to ensure that food which is safe to eat can be redistributed to people who can benefit from this support.

“Food banks can be a trusted lifeline in the short term, but governments and regulators must also look more widely at other ways to enable people to reliably access safe and healthy food in the long term.”

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