UK food banks under record pressure – study
The UK’s food banks are being overwhelmed by an "unprecedented" increase in demand amid double-digit inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, new research has found.
According to the survey published on Sunday by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), an institution uniting more than 550 independent food banks, 89% of organizations have seen a rise in the number of people seeking support in December and January as compared to the same period one year ago.
Moreover, over 80% of food banks reported that many Britons who were asking for help were doing so for the first time in their lifetime. About 50% of the organizations covered in the survey also said that if demand increased, they would be forced to cut the volume of assistance or to refuse some applicants altogether.
The document attributed these developments mainly to increases in the cost of living. These have been spurred by skyrocketing inflation and soaring energy prices, exacerbated by the sanctions the West imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Other reasons include inadequate wages and the waiting time needed to receive a first social security payment from authorities, as well as benefit deductions.
Warning that the current situation is "unsustainable," IFAN urged the UK government to increase social security assistance to match the rising day-to-day costs, and to eliminate the five-week waiting period to receive a first social security check.
While in recent months inflation in the UK has somewhat eased up, as of January it still amounted to 10.1%. Meanwhile, food inflation reached 16.7% in the same month.
Against this backdrop, earlier this month the National Institute of Economic and Social Research claimed that UK households were suffering a "permanent" reduction in living standards amid the crisis. It also warned that seven million – or one in four – British households would be unable to fully cover their energy and food bills from this April, when the government starts scaling back its subsidies program.