The government has been challenged to move away from short term policies and start tackling the drivers of food poverty after a new report found almost 5 million adults experienced food insecurity over the past six months.
The Food Foundation said survey data showed food insecurity remains higher than levels experienced before the coronavirus pandemic struck, affecting an estimated 4.7 million adults or 9% of households over the past six months. This compares to pre-covid levels of 7.6% of households.
Of those experiencing food insecurity, 55% said it was because they did not have enough money for food, 31% said it was due to isolation, 23% said it was lack of access and supply and 8% cited other reasons.
Households with children have suffered more than those without with an estimated 2.3 million children living in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past six months, representing 12% of the total.
The situation is even worse in households with children on free school meals where 41% have reported suffering from food insecurity, which includes skipping meals.
People working in the food sector are more likely to suffer from food insecurity than those that don’t. In the past six months, 14% of food sector workers experienced food insecurity compared with 9% of non–food sector workers.
BAME households are twice as likely to have been food insecure, while adults identifying as being limited by health problems or a disability were five times more likely to be food insecure than those without.
The report was released as part of the #EndChildFoodPoverty campaign spearheaded by footballer Marcus Rashford. The Food Foundation urged the government to make food security a priority to ensure the long-term health and resilience of the nation. It said: “We must move away from short-term solutions, food banks and emergency food aid, recognise that poverty is a root cause, and prioritise policies that will address the underlying causes.”
The charity is calling for an urgent review of free school meals to ensure the eligibility threshold does not exclude any disadvantaged children from accessing a healthy meal.
It said businesses should pay at least the real living wage to employees and the government should make the £20 universal credit uplift permanent.
It also called for a designate authority in government to be responsible for monitoring and tackling food insecurity.