Food poverty in the United Kingdom

Loura Al Alanezi is a Politics (BA) student. She is from Kuwait, and she reports on the topics of poverty, mobility, security and conflict. Her hobbies include reading books and painting.

Food poverty and its consequent impacts such as malnutrition have become more prominent within the United Kingdom due to increased costs of living, including food and energy bills. Food poverty is defined as being unable to afford or have access to a sufficient supply of adequate food for a healthy diet. As a result, people are restricted in terms of their diet and skip meals to ensure there is enough food for their families. Malnutrition is related to a deficiency in protein, energy, or micronutrients and can negatively impact the individual’s health by resulting in poor health outcomes, delays in illness recovery, and longer hospital stays. It can also impact children by contributing to slower development and decreased educational performance. 

Food poverty has become more prominent especially during the lockdown. Lockdown has demonstrated the vulnerability of the UK’s emergency food aid system and the devastating consequences of food bank closures. Food banks include a diverse range of people, such as families, older people, and also people in employment. The devastating consequences of food bank closures have also impacted these different social groups. 

Inflation is intensifying current pressures on the cost of living. Increased inflation has pushed the average electricity and gas bill up by £700 a year; it has also increased by 4.3 per cent during February 2022. Other causes of inflation include energy that has increased. The rise in energy prices impacts individuals who cannot work or work longer hours due to disability, caring responsibilities, or mental health issues. 

As inflation increases and rising bills pressure families across the country, poverty and food poverty are made even more obvious . The impact is prominent as further individuals contacting Trust Trussell food banks increased by 22% from January to February 2022 to the same period in 2020. In addition, the Trussell Trust stated they are expecting the need for emergency food to rise further within the coming months.

As mentioned earlier, there is also a common element within households experiencing food insecurity related to income; that is, not being able to keep pace with rising living costs. These increased expenses contribute to the prioritisation of food with high calorific content and low nutritional value as they are cheaper, which can lead to lack of a healthy diet. Women are specifically at risk of food insecurity and food poverty. Since women feature more heavily in the lower-paid sections of the labour market, the gendered dimensions of food insecurity and in-work poverty are also important to consider.

There are organisations that provide support and food within the United Kingdom. If you would like to contribute, you can donate to Trust Trussell, which provides food and support for people. You can also donate to Sufra NW London, based in London; they provide food and support for families who live in poverty and people who are vulnerable, homeless and socially isolated.

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