An estimated 2.6million children also report they now have smaller meals than usual, regularly skip meals altogether or do not eat when they are hungry, a survey has found
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More than 2million adults in the UK have gone without food for a whole day over the past month because they cannot afford to eat, according to a report.
Thinktank the Food Foundation said its latest food poverty report found one in seven adults – 7.3 million – now fall under the ‘food-insecure’ bracket – up from 4.7 million in January.
It also reported a 57% jump in the proportion of households cutting back on food or skipping meals.
The shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, described the findings as devastating, saying they exposed how families were being left in desperate hardship.
“ Boris Johnson is responsible for this crisis and has no solutions to fix it,” he said.
An estimated 2.6million children report they now have smaller meals than usual, regularly skip meals altogether or do not eat when they are hungry.
Food banks are reporting that energy costs are so prohibitive for some people that households are turning down vegetables that they need to cook – because they cannot afford to turn on the hob.
The rise in food insecurity reflects soaring inflation as energy, food and oil prices hit record levels with the thinktank warning it will worsen in the coming months.
The Food Foundation said it was so shocked by its initial findings that it reran the survey on a wider basis, only to get the same results.
Anna Taylor, the foundation’s executive director, said: “The extremely rapid rise in food insecurity since January points to a catastrophic situation for families. Food insecurity puts families under extreme mental stress and forces people to survive on the cheap calories, which lead to health problems.”
Last week, George Eustice, the environment secretary, was accused of being ‘out of touch’ after suggesting Brits swap brands for own brands to keep up with costs.
It comes as charities warn demand for food is rising as budgets get tighter – leaving families unable to afford top-up energy meters.
Caroline Rice, 49, is one of tens of thousands of working parents who are relying on food banks to feed their kids.
The classroom assistant and single mother describes it as a “circle I can’t get out of”.
Caroline, who lives and works in rural County Fermanagh in Northern Ireland. She only has convenience food stores nearby and has to travel miles to get to a main supermarket.
The single mum to an 11-year-old daughter said: “I have always worked and still do. However, I am now facing a really tough period trying to juggle increased household bills, my growing child needing new clothes and the possibility of needing to access food bank support.
“Imagine not having £1 in your purse when your child’s tooth falls out, imagine sitting watching your child eat whilst your own stomach grumbles with hunger as you try to stretch your food bank parcel to last as long as possible.”
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Caroline added: “It’s not easy walking into a food bank and saying you need help. That’s why we need the government to treat people with dignity, because everyone should be able to put food on the table.”
She would like to stop claiming Universal Credit, but every budget won’t allow it.
She puts the central heating on only occasionally and uses coal fires to keep herself and her daughter warm.
Over the past year, millions of food parcels have been distributed to people like Caroline, the Trussell Trust said.
The charity distributed 1.9million food parcels in 2019-2020, to an estimated 370,000 households.
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Some 4,140 parcels were handed out per 100,000 people, followed by the East of England at 3,572 per 100,000, then the West Midlands at 3,483 per 100,000.
The Trussell Trust accused the government of choosing not to protect people “already struggling to make ends meet”.
“People are telling us they’re skipping meals so they can feed their children. That they are turning off essential appliances so they can afford internet access for their kids to do their homework,” said Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust.
“How can this be right in a society like ours? And yet food banks in our network tell us this is only set to get worse as their communities are pushed deeper into financial hardship.”
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“As an urgent first step benefits should be increased by at least 7%, keeping pace with increases in the cost of living,” said Revie.
On Monday Keith Anderson, the chief executive of Scottish Power, said the £200 energy loan should be replaced with a £1,000 discount for 10million households this winter.
The London fire brigade, meanwhile, was forced to issue an urgent safety warning against improvising fires at home, after a man set fire to his house by burning timber in his living room to keep warm.
A government spokesperson said: “We recognize the pressures on the cost of living and we are doing what we can to help, including spending £22bn across the next financial year to support people with energy bills and cut fuel duty.
“For the hardest hit, we’re putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families on universal credit, have also boosted the minimum wage by more than £1,000 a year for full-time workers and our household support fund is there to help with the cost of everyday essentials.”
You can locate your nearest food bank, here.