26% of food industry workers suffering from food insecurity

Huge numbers of essential workers in the UK are struggling to access enough food, according to research by the Food Foundation.

A quarter of households in which NHS or social care workers live experienced food insecurity in January 2023, as did 26% of households home to food sector workers and 21% of households home to education workers. 

The figures come in the midst of NHS and education sector disputes with government – unions have been calling for wage increases to keep up with rising prices as frontline workers delivering essential services continue to struggle with the cost of living crisis.

Of all households that were food insecure in January 2023, 39% are in employment, indicating that being in work is not necessarily sufficient to prevent families from falling into food insecurity, the foundation said.

Food insecurity is also extremely prevalent in households in receipt of benefits, many of who are also in work: 49% of households receiving Universal Credit experienced food insecurity at the beginning of the year. 

The latest data on national food insecurity levels from the foundation’s Food Insecurity Tracker show 9.3 million adults (18% of households) experienced food insecurity in January 2023, with one in four households with children (4 million children) experiencing food insecurity in same month.

These findings “demonstrate that food insecurity continues to be highly prevalent in the UK and that for many, wages and benefits are simply not providing enough to live on” the foundation warned. The group called on the government to ensure that minimum wage and benefit levels are “set at values that take into account what is required for families to afford a healthy diet”.  

The findings reflect those in a survey by Usdaw, the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, which found that one in four of its members working in food retail, distribution and manufacturing are missing meals every month to be able to pay their bills. 

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