UK Food Banks Under Historic Pressure
More than 90% of UK food banks are under unprecedented strain due to demands from struggling families as food corporations say prices will continue to climb
The UK’s food banks are being overwhelmed by an “unprecedented“ increase in demand amid double-digit inflation and the cost-of-living crisis, new research has found.
According to the survey published on Sunday by the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN), an institution uniting more than 550 independent food banks, 89% of organizations have seen a rise in the number of people seeking support in December and January as compared to the same period one year ago.
Moreover, over 80% of food banks reported that many Britons who were asking for help were doing so for the first time in their lifetime. About 50% of the organizations covered in the survey also said that if demand increased, they would be forced to cut the volume of assistance or to refuse some applicants altogether.
The document attributed these developments mainly to increases in the cost of living. These have been spurred by skyrocketing inflation and soaring energy prices, exacerbated by the sanctions the West imposed on Russia over the Ukraine conflict. Other reasons include inadequate wages and the waiting time needed to receive a first social security payment from authorities, as well as benefit deductions.
The world’s biggest food corporation, Nestle, has said prices for staple items will continue to grow during 2023, after more than a year of price increases that have forced the ordinary consumer into an ongoing struggle to buy groceries.
According to Nestle CEO Mark Schneider, Nestle’s price increases, which are expected to vary by market and category, will be “very targeted” and will only be implemented where “input cost inflation justifies it.”
“We are still in a situation where we’re repairing our gross margin and, like all the consumers around the world, we’ve been hit by inflation and now we’re trying to repair the damage that has been done,” Schneider said.
The executive provided no details on what projected increases will affect which of Nestle’s 2,000 brands, a range spanning confectionery, frozen foods, and baby formula.
Higher commodity costs and wages have brought the problem of pricing strategies into sharp focus for food-producing companies as they struggle to maximize their profits without turning away customers.
Unilever, Coca-Cola, Heineken, Colgate-Palmolive and Procter & Gamble have all flagged further increases in the prices of their goods in 2023, as they grapple with elevated commodity, energy and labor costs.
Warning that the current situation is “unsustainable,” IFAN urged the UK government to increase social security assistance to match the rising day-to-day costs, and to eliminate the five-week waiting period to receive a first social security check.
While in recent months inflation in the UK has somewhat eased up, as of January it still amounted to 10.1%. Meanwhile, food inflation reached 16.7% in the same month.