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'Horrendous new normal': Millions skipping or cutting down on meals

A child takes an egg from an empty fridge.
A child takes an egg from an empty fridge. Copyright Canva
Copyright Canva
By Joshua Askew
Published on Updated
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Rampant food inflation and poor state support are forcing people in Britain to make impossible choices, says the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

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Millions in Britain are having to cut down or skip meals amid the cost of living crisis, according to an anti-poverty charity. 

The Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) found 5.7 million low-income households don't have enough money for food, which it called a "horrendous new normal". 

It said "exceptionally high food inflation" and inadequate government assistance was to blame, forcing those on the lowest incomes to make impossible choices about how often they eat and which foods they buy. 

Around 7 million households were going without items such as food, heating or basic toiletries, it found. 

Meanwhile, three-quarters of homes on Universal Credit - the UK government's social security payment - had gone hungry or scrimped on meals in the last 30 days. 

The findings come before the new inflation figures on Wednesday. 

Price increases have eased off - with the Consumer Prices Index rising by 8.7% in the 12 months to April, down from 10.1% in March, according to the Office for National Statistics - but they remain stubbornly high. 

"Things are simply not getting better," wrote the JRF in a press release. 

"The number of low-income households going without essentials, going hungry and in arrears has not budged in over a year, and this is likely to have long-lasting consequences on their family life, finances and health."

Record food inflation, which reached 19% during the charity's survey, replaced energy prices as one of the largest contributors to inflation in April 2023.

These increases have been blamed on the Ukraine war, with Ukraine and Russia major wheat producers, but climate change is also playing a role, hammering crop yields. 

The JRF found 2.3 million low-income households on Universal Credit were forced into changing the kind of food they buy, including making less nutritious choices. 

Almost 1.5 million low-income households, more than four in ten on Universal Credit, also experienced a poor diet, increasing the risk of future poor health. 

The JRF urged the government to implement an "Essentials Guarantee" to ensure that state support covered life essentials. 

"Without this, many families face the bleak prospect of running to catch up but never being able to because they are in a spiral of debt, rising prices and worsening health," said Rachelle Earwaker, Senior Economist for the charity.

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