Christine Manning, a dedicated volunteer at Greenwich Foodbank, works diligently to prepare food packages that will be distributed to those in need. This selfless act takes place at a storage facility in London, Britain, on June 27, 2023.
A recent report published by the Trussell Trust, a food bank charity, reveals that one out of every seven people in the United Kingdom faced hunger last year due to insufficient finances. This equates to a staggering 11.3 million individuals, which is more than double the population of Scotland. The report attributes this crisis to a dysfunctional social security system and a persistent cost of living crisis that shows no signs of abating.
Despite being the world’s sixth-largest economy, the United Kingdom has experienced mounting pressure on its citizens for over a year. Inflation rates have outpaced wage growth for nearly all workers, leading to the biggest strain on living standards in the past six decades, according to government forecasters.
The Trussell Trust’s extensive network of 1,300 food bank centers throughout the UK has witnessed a sharp increase in demand. In the year leading up to March, these centers supplied a record-breaking 3 million food parcels, a 37% increase compared to five years ago.
The Trussell Trust is quick to highlight that this continuous upward trajectory in demand highlights weaknesses in the social security system as the primary driver of food bank dependency, rather than solely attributing it to the pandemic or the cost of living crisis.
According to the charity’s findings, while 7% of the UK population relied on charitable food support, such as food banks, a staggering 71% of individuals facing hunger had not yet accessed any form of assistance. Alarmingly, one in five people seeking help from food banks come from working households. The charity calls upon the UK government to ensure that the benefits system covers the essential costs of individuals in need.
In response to the Trussell Trust report, a spokesperson for the Department for Work and Pensions acknowledged the struggles faced by the public. They stated that record financial support, amounting to an average of £3,300 ($4,206) per household, is being provided to aid those in need. The government has also implemented measures such as an increase in benefits and the state pension in line with inflation, an increment in the minimum wage, and support for families to cover essential costs like food and energy expenses.
However, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s economic pledge to halve overall inflation by 2023 has been undermined by persistently high food inflation rates. Food prices have outpaced the broader inflation rate across the entire economy, causing additional strain on households already struggling with higher taxes and mortgage rates. The most recent official data reveals that food and drink inflation reached 18.3% in May and 14.6% in June, as per industry data.
Despite these alarming figures, British supermarket executives have rejected allegations of profiteering at the expense of consumers during this cost of living crisis. Rising food prices have contributed to the severe squeeze on living standards in the country, prompting inquiries into accountability. Trade unions and politicians have accused supermarkets of “greedflation” and criticized their sluggishness in passing on lower producer prices to consumers.
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Omprakash Tiwary is a business writer who delves into the intricacies of the corporate world. With a focus on finance and economic landscape. He offers readers valuable insights into market trends, entrepreneurship, and economic developments.