Food security at ‘crisis levels’ for vulnerable people due to the pandemic, new research shows

The pandemic has had a “devastating impact” on the UK’s most vulnerable populations and the problem of household food insecurity continues to be at “crisis levels”, a report has found.

15/03/21

Food security at ‘crisis levels’ for vulnerable people due to the pandemic, new research shows

New research shows that the pandemic has had a devastating impact on the food security of the UK’s most vulnerable populations, including low-income families and disabled people.

The ‘Impact of COVID-19 on Household Food Security’ report, released by charity The Food Foundation, urges Government to make food security a priority in recovery planning and move away from short-term solutions like food banks and emergency food aid.

The research, using survey data from 4231 adults in February 2021, features findings from 1 year of tracking food insecurity.

Food insecurity remained higher than pre-COVID levels, affecting an estimated 4.7 million adults (9% of households) over the last six months, compared to levels of 7.6% before the pandemic, the report found.

Over half (55%) of those experiencing food insecurity said it was because they did not have enough money for food, while a third (31%) said it was due to isolation and a quarter (23%) said it was due to a lack of access or supply.

Despite Government’s financial support schemes and the Universal Credit £20 uplift, 22% of households have experienced a drop in income since February 2020, the research found.

Households with children had higher levels of food insecurity compared to those without, according to the data, with an estimated 2.3 million children living in households that have experienced food insecurity in the past six months.

Households with children on Free School Meals were shown to be in an even worse situation, with 41% reporting experiencing food insecurity in the past six months.

Nearly 1 million children (13%) aged 8-17 years reported that either they or their family had visited a food bank since early December 2020 – rising 2% since the summer holidays.

The report also highlighted a stigma around the issue of food insecurity, finding that 42% of food insecure adults did not try to get help because they didn’t want to ask for help, or felt bad for asking.

Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic (BAME) households were more than twice as likely to be food insecure, compared to white ethnicities, with data in January showing 20% of BAME households having experienced food insecurity in the last six months compared to 9% of White-British households.

Adults who identified as being limited ‘a lot’ by health problems or a disability were five times more likely to experience food insecurity than those without.

Fazilet Hadi, Disability Rights UK Head of Policy said experiencing food insecurity is a symptom of poverty.

“Benefit levels are far too low and are not enabling disabled people to live safely or with dignity.”

“Despite this, the chancellor failed to extend the £20 uplift per week to those on legacy benefits.”

“There needs to be a fundamental review of the level of benefits, accepting that many disabled people will rely on the safety net for longer, due to ill health or impairment and or discrimination in securing employment.”

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