Food insecurity rises but more eat out

The past few weeks have thrown out some stats about the UK's food habits that sound contradictory, but unfortunately exist within the same society.

The past few weeks have thrown out some stats that sound contradictory, but unfortunately exist within the same society. While more citizens in the UK were forced to use food banks after jobs were cut in lockdown, by contrast JustEat announced they’ll be hiring thousands more people to deal with the rise in takeaway demand. By Sadia Nowshin.

What’s food insecurity?

Food insecurity covers the experiences of hunger and not being able to access the quality or quantity of food needed to maintain a good level of health. It also includes having to cut down on meals because of financial worries.

Last year, the gov pledged to monitor the levels of food security in the UK after it was declared a public health emergency, but the first set of results won’t be ready until summer of 2021.

The latest update shows that food insecurity in England, Wales and Northern Ireland was experienced by about 16% of adults. That number shot up to almost double during the pandemic and has remained at that level over the last four months.

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It also shows that the number of people having to use food banks has remained high, with 1 in 10 people saying they used one in June. In Scotland, it’s estimated that 5% of the country were in a position where they went to a charity for help – before the pandemic, the last estimate of UK food bank use stood at 2%.

However, these numbers don’t cover the whole story. The Food Standards Agency (FSA) reported that a lot of the people they interviewed who were struggling with food insecurity felt too ashamed to seek help from food banks or charities. Instead, they resorted to cutting meals or stretching perishable food out past its use by date, putting some at risk of food poisoning.

Who is it affecting? 

The Guardian found that from April to June, young people from 16-25 and households with children were significantly more likely to be experiencing food insecurity than any other demographic. 

Executive director of thinktank Food Foundation said that the stats revealed the “brutal reality of being too poor to put a meal on the table and how debilitating this is for households with children”, warning that the report pointed towards a  “worsening of this bleak situation unless the government acts now”.

Elsewhere in the country, people are dining out and buying takeaways more than ever before.

JustEat announced a 44% surge across Europe in revenue and plans to recruit thousands more people to their team in response to the rise in people ordering takeaways. They’ve predicted the growth will continue in the coming months, undeterred by the ‘Eat out to Help out’ scheme as the demand for dining out doesn’t tend to affect takeaway orders.

Talking of eating out to help out, the scheme has proven to be massively popular as 10.5 million discounts were claimed in the first week. Meanwhile, the number of people struggling to put any food on the table is also rising.

Eat Out To Help Out Bristol - Visit Bristol

These two stories seem to contradict each other – more of us are eating out and spending money on takeaways, but also more people are struggling to afford even the most basic of ingredients.

The fact that both stories exist simultaneously within the same society is a sign that the wealth gap could be widening as a result of the pandemic. Those who had lower paid roles before lockdown were more likely to lose their jobs than the higher-paid top CEOs and managers.

For the more well-off, lockdown was an opportunity to cook more at home and experiment with healthier dishes. But for the poorest, the same lockdown in the same country plunged them deeper into financial peril, and scraping together a basic meal became a strain.

Food Insecurity - ENT Wellbeing Sydney

The gov have acknowledged that food insecurity has become a pressing problem for more of the country’s most vulnerable, and said they are “supporting frontline charities and community groups with a grant of up to £16m, and we recently announced an extra £63m, which will be given to and distributed by local authorities to those in need”.

How can I help?

💜 Donate to your local food bank
💜 Find a local campaign to join and support through the End Hunger UK website
💜 Volunteer/donate to FareShare UK, who redirect food that would otherwise go to waste towards food banks and community groups