Social Justice

One in four parents skipping meals to save cash

Food poverty coalition End Hunger UK calls for government to do more to measure ‘hidden hunger’

Packages of food are lined along shelves and on the floor in a food bank

Packages of food are lined along shelves and on the floor in a food bank. Image: Trussell Trust

Parents are missing meals to save on cash according to a food poverty coalition, who have called on the government to commit to measuring ‘hidden hunger’.

End Hunger UK, a coalition of food poverty organisations including foodbank charity The Trussell Trust, the Food Foundation and the Independent Food Aid Network, are making the pleas following figures released today that reveal that one in four parents have skipped eating.

In fact, 13 per cent of adults polled have gone a full day without food in the last 12 months with parents of children in primary school faring the worst as 27 per cent faced the choice of whether to eat a meal or save to make ends meet.

As for adults without kids, 16 per cent skipped meals while eight per cent went a full day without eating in the last year.

This government has an opportunity to lead the fight against this hidden hunger by measuring household food insecurity and making sure people can afford to feed themselves and their families a healthy diet

Figures for those in work were little better, while people who are not employed face dangerous levels of food insecurity. A total of 36 per cent of unemployed people have skipped a meal and a shocking 28 per cent have gone 24 hours without food.

It is hardly surprising that people face the do-or-dine decision – 59 per cent of adults saw their outlay on groceries rise in the last three months compared to the previous period.

The desire for action is clear with 77 per cent of adults insisting that the government should do more to monitor how many people in the UK are food insecure.

The Trussell Trust are reporting that foodbank use is set to hit record numbers this financial year – without taking into account independent banks, other food providers or people skipping meals. They also don’t measure the number of people who rely on friends and family or discount food when calculating ‘hidden hunger’.

Cheaper or discounted food was a necessity for 21 per cent of adults while eight per cent turned to family and friends. For parents, the figures increased to 28 per cent and 11 per cent respectively.

The stats have called for greater government measures of food insecurity but South Shields Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck is the author of a bill on that subject. The proposed legislation is set for a second reading in the House of Commons on Friday.

The MP said: “Now is the time for the government to sit up and tackle the growing issue of hunger in our country. Whilst the government has carried out snapshot measures of food insecurity, these are piecemeal and don’t allow for assessment of long-term trends. We know that 1.1 million food parcels are given out in Trussell Trust foodbanks alone but these figures are clearly the tip of the iceberg.

“Without a robust system of household food insecurity measurement in place, making policy to mitigate hunger will never become a reality. It is clear that the time for action is now and urgent. That’s why I’m taking a bill to parliament to make the government measure hidden hunger, because what gets measured gets mended.”

Laura Sandys, Chair and Founder of the Food Foundation, added: “We know that food insecurity can trigger a range of unhealthy eating habits and force people to buy cheaper, less nutritious and more calorific food. This government has an opportunity to lead the fight against this hidden hunger by measuring household food insecurity and making sure people can afford to feed themselves and their families a healthy diet.”

Responding to the study, a government spokesperson said:“The government provides a strong safety net through the welfare system for anyone who needs extra support, which includes hardship payments, benefit advances and budgeting loans.

“We recognise there are a number of different sources measuring factors that can influence food security, and we are currently reviewing all available evidence to better understand the impact on households.”
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