Cost of Living Crisis: Food Poverty

Cost of living crisis. Illustration of one person serving food to another person, with a world map behind them.

The cost of living crisis continues to impact millions of families across the UK - and affording food has become one of the toughest expenses. 

We break down what food poverty is, how it’s impacting racialised communities, and where you can access support.

What is food poverty?

People who are experiencing food poverty aren’t able to pay for affordable and nutritious food.  

It widely affects people on low incomes, who rely on free school meals, food vouchers and other support. 

The cost of living crisis has made it even harder for people across the UK to afford food. 

What are the current statistics around food poverty in the UK?

Because of food poverty, the Food Foundation reports that millions of people are currently skipping meals. 

In the last month alone (October 2022), 9.7 million people experienced food insecurity.

And in September 2022, lower-priced supermarket items - like pasta and tea - rose by 17%. This was a 7% increase from the month before. 

Families who aren’t able to afford food shops rely on free school meals, too. “In June 2022, around 1.9 million children were entitled to free school meals in England - 22.5% of the student population”, the BBC stated.

Since 2021, there’s been a 9% increase in children who are now eligible to receive free school meals.

This increase is also reflected in the amount of food parcels given out at food banks - in 2010, “60,000 food packages were handed out in Britain”. 

This year, the Trussell Trust reported that their network of food banks have distributed over 2.1 million food parcels

There are now over 2,500 food banks in the UK. In 2021, there were more food banks in the country than McDonalds. 

How are racialised communities affected?

Racialised people make up 15% of the population, but we’re twice as likely to experience deep poverty than white folks. 

Back in May, the New Economics Foundation predicted that racialised communities will experience an “average increase in the cost of living 1.6 times higher” than white households. 

And our communities are already feeling this through all kinds of expenses and bills, including food. 

1 in 5 racialised households are “currently food insecure compared to 1 in 10 white households”, according to The Runnymede Trust. 

Where can I find vouchers and discounts?

There are food vouchers and discounts out there if you need them. 

MoneySuperMarket regularly update their website with offers and support for people struggling with the cost of living. This includes their list of supermarket vouchers

If you’re trying to access a food bank, you’ll need a referral for a food voucher which the Trussell Trust can support you with. Citizens Advice have guidance on accessing food banks, too. 

The Healthy Start Scheme may be available for you if you’re pregnant or caring for a child under four. You can use the card for healthy food and milk. If you’re based in Scotland, the Best Start Food scheme offers a prepaid card which you can use in shops and online for healthy food.

Don’t forget to check what your local council can provide. Support can differ country-wide versus locally, so make sure to find what’s available to your area.

We’ve also put together a resource hub with information and advice for racialised people around the cost of living and food poverty. 

Where can I find a food bank?

The Trussell Trust support more than 1,200 food banks across the UK. If you want to find a local food bank near to you, search for locations on their food bank finder. 

The Food Aid Network also has an independent food bank finder that maps places across the country.

If you need cheap and affordable meal ideas

Check out our Community Comfort series of recipes.

Inspired by a global palette of cuisine, these recipes were collected by our Community Ambassador and food publisher Riaz Phillips.

They’re easy to make with cheap ingredients, too!

Struggling to find more cost of living support?

Our Cost of Living Resource Hub has over 50 organisations, groups and supportive services to help you. 

You may also find the following resources from our cost of living series helpful:

This piece was written by Spark & Co.'s Digital Marketing and Website Support Lead, Cherokee Seebalack (They/Them).