Millions of UK parents facing food insecurity this winter

New data being released today by the Food Foundation shows that increases in fuel and food prices mean people are going to have to choose between eating and heating in the coming months. This will likely be worse for households with children.

The cap on energy bills was increased by 12% on 1 October. The data also shows that people who are already on prepayment meters will be worst affected (an estimated 4 million households are on prepayment meters).  The choice will be stark – put money in the metre or buy food. In the past year, 73% of households with children on prepayment meters report having had to cut back on food spending to pay their energy bills (FF data).  80% report that they would consider cutting back food spending further in the context of the fuel price rises (FF data).

Food prices are also likely to start rising as a result of the knock-on effects of the HGV crisis, labour shortages especially in the hospitality sector, rises in prices of CO2 and increases in world food prices. Price rises of 5% are predicted in the coming weeks – with a potential second wave of increases in the new year.

Not only are prices rising, but income for many will fall due to the end of furlough and in early October, households on Universal Credit will start feeling the effects of the £20 cut to their household income.

Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimates that for a couple with two children earning less than £20k annually and on Universal Credit, they will be approximately £130 worse off per month with the combined effects of the price increases and the cut in Universal Credit. This is the same amount which an average individual in the poorest 10% of households spends on their entire monthly food and drink budget (reference).

Food banks are already seeing shortages in food supply so will be unable to support more people struggling over the Autumn and Winter, reports the Food Foundation.

Children living in fuel poor homes are at greater risk of health problems especially respiratory problems , which is particularly concerning in the Covid context. 55% of households with children are worried their children’s health and wellbeing will be affected because they can’t afford their energy and food bills in the context of these rises (FF data).

Marcus Rashford’s #WriteNow campaign calls on the general public to write to their MPs and support urgent action to End Child Food Poverty.

He is calling on Government to urgently support three recommendations and include the funds needed in the Autumn Spending Review expected on 27 October. This follows his previous campaign when over 1.1 million people signed a petition on the parliamentary website.

The three recommendations Marcus is supporting, part of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy, will guarantee that every child at risk of going hungry gets some good food every day. They are:

  1. Expand Free School Meal eligibility to all children aged 7-18 in all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits, and to children that are undocumented or living in households with the NRPF immigration condition.
  2. Provide long-term funding for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, increasing eligibility in line with Free School Meal expansion.
  3. Expand Healthy Start eligibility to all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits with pregnant women or children under five and invest in a communications campaign to increase awareness and uptake of the scheme.

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of Food Foundation said: “We need the Government to get ahead of this crisis before winter sets in when the consequences become much more serious. Government needs to U-turn on the Universal Credit cut and establish a minimum nutritional safety net so that at risk children get at least one decent meal a day.”

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