Increasingly, people within the U.K. are relying on donated food, distributed through food banks, to feed themselves and their families. Current figures suggest around 8.4 million people are living in ”severely food insecure homes.”
The official figures from the Trussell Trust, a charity set up to organise food banks and feed those in poverty in the U.K., show that the figure recording the issue of emergency food rations jumped from 1.1 million in 2015-16 to 1.3 million in 2016-17 with this year anticipated to show an even higher increase.
All sizeable supermarkets now have collection baskets. Alongside the larger Charities, such as Trussell, smaller groups, churches and local volunteers are all collecting and distributing food within their local communities. This makes it very difficult to get any sort of national picture.
Why are so many people going hungry?
Many factors are blamed for the decline into food poverty nationally. However, low income and debt remain the largest factors.
It cannot be denied that one of the main causations is the U.K. Government’s change to the benefits system with the introduction of the Universal Tax Credit system replacing a variety of the old benefits – this meant that many people living on benefits in the Country had a six week changeover period with no money.
There are concerns voiced over leaving the European Union, with the predicted increase in food prices and importing issues, which are widely believed to be guaranteed to make it an even bigger problem. The devaluing of the pound has already made food supplies more expensive at source for importers – and the average English family utilises a 30 percent spend on imported foodstuffs.
Food waste: a separate issue?
Within the food industry in the U.K. 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted. France has now passed a law forcing their supermarkets to donate surplus food to charities. Supermarkets in the U.K. dispose of somewhere between 47 and 110 thousand tons a year. Consider those figures alongside the estimated 7.3 million tonnes of domestic food waste and there is a huge disconnect between the food industry, manufacture and retail and individuals who just cannot manage to feed themselves and their families.