Rising prices in the face of fuel shortages and war in Ukraine are pushing up the cost of living across the globe. The squeeze on living standards is also acutely felt here in the UK. Soaring energy prices and record high inflation mean families across the country are experiencing the biggest drop in disposable household incomes since the 1950s.
The cost-of-living crisis is taking place against a backdrop of already high levels of deprivation in the UK. Almost one in five people in the UK currently live in poverty, with some estimates suggesting that the crisis could push more than a million into deprivation. For many, the sharp increase in prices and stagnation of income levels translates into a daily struggle to survive.
For this episode, we collaborated with the Trussell Trust to explore the pressures created by the cost-of-living crisis and how families cope with rising prices and tighter budgets. The Trussell Trust supports a network of more than 1,300 local food bank centres across the UK, who provide practical support for people facing financial hardship.
We hear from Caroline from Northern Ireland about her experiences of receiving support through her local food bank. We are also joined by Amy, area manager for the Trussell Trust and working closely with food banks in and around London. Together we also discuss additional challenges for families living in rural areas, shifts in public attitudes, and how the amazing support provided by many Trussell Trust and community volunteers can’t or shouldn’t make up for an inadequate social security system.
This crisis didn’t happen overnight. Between 1 April 2021 and 31 March 2022, food banks in the Trussell Trust’s UK wide network distributed over 2.1 million emergency food parcels to people in crisis. This is an increase of 14% compared to the same period in 2019-20; 832,000 of these parcels went to children. Compared to this time five years ago, need for food banks in our network has increased by 81 percent. As we discuss in the episode, the ongoing crisis is pushing more and more people to ask for help with food, including those who may never have experienced income insecurity before.
This increase in food bank need is not a trend that the Trussell Trust wants to see. Its long-term vision is for everyone to be free from hunger. Yet emergency food such as provided through food banks isn’t a long-term solution to achieve this. Ensuring that everyone has enough income is vital to avoid people having to make impossible choices between spending money on food, heating or shelter.
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