Food charity Fareshare has written to supermarkets including Tesco, Sainsbury’s, and ASDA calling for them to donate more of their surplus food.
Donations made by supermarkets have, the charity told the BBC, fallen by 200 tons every month this year. The shortfall is due to less food waste being produced, a change affected by global food production and supply chain issues.
Chris Hawkes head of network for Fareshare told the BBC the charity had no issue with supermarkets wasting less food through initiatives such as relaxing best before dates and selling more ‘wonky’ fruit and vegetables.
However, the shortfall in donations was a cause of concern with so many families struggling to put food on the table and pay for higher energy bills.
The Trussell Trust, the charity which operates food banks across the country, released figures in September showing that it had provided 50% more food parcels in recent months.
A YouGov poll also cited by the Trussell Trust indicated that 40% of people claiming Universal Credit are skipping meals to save money as winter approaches.
Chief Executive Emma Revie said it was “deeply concerning”, adding that it was “wrong that people are missing meals and are unable to afford to cook”.
The Trussell Trust gave out 2.1 million emergency food parcels in 2021/22, an increase of 14%; 832,000 of these went to families with children.
In 2020/21 4.2 million people in the UK – 6% of the population – were living in food poverty. A YouGov survey for the Food Foundation conducted in April this year found that 15.5% of all UK households were food insecure, either skipping meals or eating less to reduce costs.
People in the UK are paying 10.6% more for their food than last year according to figures published by the British Retail Consortium. This has been driven in part by the impact of the war in Ukraine on the price of animal feed, fertiliser and other commodities.
Food price inflation has seen the cost of fresh food rise by 12.1% since last year and that of staples such as pasta and tinned food by 8.6%.
The impact of food price inflation can be seen in the 10% fall in profits within its retail division reported by supermarket chain Tesco, with an annual profit of between £2.4 and £2.5bn, which is at the lower end of expectations.
Tesco CEO Ken Murphy told the BBC this was a result of customers having to “watch every penny to make ends meet”.
While all households in the UK are to some extent impacted by the surging price of food, figures from the Office for National Statistics show that 91% of the people they surveyed reported a rise in their cost of living since last year, 95% of respondents attributed this in part at least to the rising cost of food.
The greatest impact though is felt by those households likely to struggle because they were already living in poverty. Data from the Department of Work and Pensions shows that out of the 10.5 million people living in relative poverty, defined as having an income 60% or less of the average, 16% were in food insecure households.
Despite the efforts of charities like Fareshare and the Trussell Trust, the prospect of citizens in a wealthy developed country like the UK going hungry, something that would have been unthinkable a short while ago, is becoming a painful reality.