Labor has warned of a “cost of living tsunami” as families face price hikes of up to 50 per cent on everyday groceries.
Figures from the Office for National Statistics (ONS) show that the cheapest pasta rose 50 percent in the 12 months to April, while the average price of bread, ground beef, rice and chips rose more than 15 percent.
Charities say the increase will see more of the poorest families turning to food banks as households grapple with the brunt of the cost-of-living crisis, which has seen utility bills, rent and food costs skyrocket.
It comes after LatestPageNews showed how tens of thousands of Britain’s poorest families are forgoing relief measures introduced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak thanks to the benefit cap.
Jonathan Ashworth, Shadow Secretary of State for Works and Pensions, said: “Prices are skyrocketing while struggling families save or even turn to food banks.
“Tory MPs cut universal credit in real terms last month after cutting it by £20 a week last year. This is a cost of living tsunami caused by years of Tory economic mismanagement.”
Sabine Goodwin, coordinator of the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), said: “Rising staple food prices coupled with rising energy costs are bound to put even more pressure on low-income households and in turn increase the need for food banks
“The Chancellor’s cash-first interventions are very welcome, but given the scale of the UK’s long-running poverty crisis, they do not go far enough.”
IFAN said 93 percent of its grocery banks have reported an increase or significant increase in demand for their services since early 2022.
As part of the ONS research, statisticians selected 30 inexpensive foods that households buy regularly and tracked their prices from April 2021 to April 2022. During this period, average prices rose by 6 to 7 percent, close to inflation in the country overall food and alcohol prices.
“For months we’ve been hearing that families on the lowest incomes are having to make tough decisions as they do their weekly grocery shopping, putting items back on shelves and checking out when hit by rising prices,” said Alice Fuller, director of the Child poverty at Save the Children UK.
“This new ONS analysis of 30 everyday foods validates their experience and shows that the cost of living crisis is already having an impact on people’s finances and the way they eat… The price of a shopping basket contributes to people’s suffering .”
Some essential items tracked in the ONS analysis showed price falls, including cheese, pizza, fries, sausages and apples. The cost of potatoes saw the most significant drop at 14 percent.
However, the research, which the ONS says was “highly experimental,” fails to take into account the costs involved in purchasing a product.
While potato prices have dropped significantly, many struggling households are avoiding them because they take longer to cook than alternatives and therefore use more gas or electricity. In March, Iceland’s chief said some food bank users are refusing potatoes and other root vegetables because they can’t afford to cook them.
Along with the increase in staple foods, the Trussell Trust says the use of food banks has also increased.
Between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, food banks in the charity’s UK network distributed over 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people in need – a 14 per cent increase on the previous year.
Elizabeth Maytom, a project manager at Norwood-Brixton Food Bank in south London, said local demand has particularly intensified in recent weeks, describing it as “unprecedented”.
“We don’t have enough supplies,” she said. “Even basics like pasta and baked beans, we ask the general public, which we never did before. We see many people who need help for the first time.”
IFAN said more than 80 percent of its 194 food banks reported struggling with food supply issues in the past four months.
Kathy Bland, an IFAN member at Leominster Food Bank in Herefordshire, said her organization distributed 179 food parcels in April 2022, compared with 86 in April 2021.
“We cannot and should not replace the welfare system,” she said. “Long-term support for people who cannot afford food is not sustainable.”
Separate data from the Food Foundation recently showed a 57 percent increase in the proportion of households restricting food or skipping meals altogether in just three months.
In April, 7.3 million adults lived in households that reported going without or physically unable to get food in the past month. This compares to 4.7 million adults in January.
“There is no doubt that the cost of living crisis is having a devastating impact on families’ ability to afford the food they need,” said Shona Goudie, policy research manager at The Food Foundation.
“This is partly due to the sharp increases in food prices that we are seeing, but also to increases in the price of other basic necessities (e.g. energy bills) that are putting pressure on families’ disposable incomes and thus straining their food budgets.”
After weeks of pressure, Chancellor Rishi Sunak last week announced a £5bn windfall tax on oil and gas companies to secure a £15bn aid package.