Understanding Food Poverty in the UK

More and more people in the UK are struggling to afford the food that they need. One in five parents in London say that they have skipped meals so that their children could eat. Between April and September 2016, 510,000 people received the three day emergency food parcels provided by Trussell Trust foodbanks. This is an increase of 10,000 on the same period from the year before.

Food poverty is about more than just being hungry. So how can we understand the problem of food poverty, the causes of this problem, and how we should respond to this problem?

Understanding the problem

The inability to afford food causes problems for people’s physical health and has important social implications. Mealtimes have social significance as they are times that people come together and speak as they share food. They can also be times of great celebration. Without the ability to afford food, people can become isolated; unable to share in celebrations and unwilling to go to engage in social activity as they cannot afford to reciprocate by inviting someone back to their home.

Understanding the causes

this is a social injustice

Many low income households are increasingly under pressure as the cost of essential goods and services have increased much faster than average earnings so a far greater proportion of incomes now go on food. Lots of us are experiencing underemployment or have unpredictable incomes due to zero-hours contracts, all of which inhibits people’s ability to save.

With no buffer to protect those of us that are struggling, an unexpected bill, loss of a job, or a delay in receiving benefits can plunge lives into crisis.

What shapes our responses?


Physical wellbeing:
food and nutrition are key to our physical wellbeing. It is vital that all of us have access to the food and nutrition that we need to be healthy, as well as the skills and resources to prepare it.

Hospitality and community: it is important that we all have opportunities to eat with others. By connecting people into communities, it is easier for us to develop friendships and offer each other support.

Empowerment:  all of us have our own gifts and skills – indeed, those of us struggling financially may well be having to apply huge resources of resilience and tenacity just to get by. Opportunities for people experiencing difficulty to participate in finding solutions can be really valuable: this might involve volunteering on an existing project, or setting up something new.

Justice: working families on low incomes are increasingly being referred to food banks, because after paying rent and bills there is no money left for food: this is a social injustice.

One way of responding may be to raise awareness of injustices in our day to day lives. If you have a job, does the organisation you work for pay all its employees the living wage? What does it require of its contractors? Perhaps you could make a difference in this respect.

Make a difference

If you’d like to make a difference to those that are going hungry in England, you can host a Big Pancake Party. It’s an opportunity for you to have a little fun and do a lot of good. Find out more today.