Journey to Justice

About Food Poverty

By Victoria Nicholson

Despite being one of the richest economies in the world, the UK has one of the worst food poverty rates in Europe. 

A person is said to be living in food poverty when they cannot afford to buy sufficient quantities of nutritious food. Food poverty often means having to skip meals and going hungry, or eating unhealthy foods which lack nutritional value.

The main reason people in the UK fall into food poverty is because they do not have enough regular income to buy adequate food. Reasons for the shortfall in income for food include low-paying jobs; flexible/zero-hour employment contracts; and failings in the social security system. As other costs of living such as rent and fuel continue to rise, not having enough income means that many individuals and families do not have enough money for food once other bills have been paid.

Those with low-income have little to no choice over what and when they eat. Food poverty results in poorer diet which results in poorer health and overall quality of life. It is a form of economic injustice, with clear disparity between richer and poorer people. 

Scale of food poverty in the UK

Figures from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs committee between September 2020 – February 2021 showed that nearly 6 million adults and 1.7 million children in the UK had difficulty in getting enough to eat. 

Whilst already a shockingly high figure for an economically advanced nation, some experts believe that figure is even higher – closer to 8.4 million. Food poverty was already a growing problem in the UK, but the scale of the issue soared as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As with other aspects of economic inequality, people from ethnic minority groups, people with disabilities and older people find themselves disproportionately affected by food poverty. Hard-hit areas include big cities such as a London, Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle where great affluence is found alongside those unable to afford this basic necessities of life. 

Ending food poverty in the UK

No-one should have to go hungry, especially when there is more than enough food to go around. To help end this issue here are just a couple of small simple steps you could take…

1) Donate to your local food bank

Whilst this will not end the issue of food poverty in the long-term, it will ensure that adults and children get enough to eat today. To find out how to donate food to your local food bank visit this Trussell Trust page. 

2) Email your MP to keep the £20 Universal Credit Uplift

In April 2020 the Government introduced a £20 Universal Credit uplift which has helped many families put food on the table. In March 2021 it was announced that this uplift will be removed in September. Take part in the Unite the Union campaign by emailing your MP to demand that the £20 uplift remains. 

Victoria Nicholson is a member of the Journey to Justice Economic (In)Justice advisory group.

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