News Food Poverty

8.4m in UK too poor to eat

New data from the UN released today shows that an estimated 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. Approximately 4.5% of people went without food for a whole day within the last year because they did not have enough money to eat.

Alarming new data from the UN released today suggest that as many as 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. An estimated 4.7m people report they went a full day without anything to eat at all due to lack of money. Based on these estimates, the UK – the 6th largest economy in the world - ranks in the bottom half of European countries, on par with Hungary and Latvia.

This provides the first nationally representative data on food insecurity in the UK in over a decade. In recent years, data on food bank use has served as a proxy for counting how many in the UK do not have enough to eat. However, these new UN figures suggest that true extent of the problem is much larger. ‘We urgently call on Government to commit to annual measurement of the extent of food poverty in the UK. The absence of regular, accurate data keeps the magnitude of the problem hidden.’ says Hannah Laurison, who coordinates Sustain's Beyond the Food Bank Campaign, 'The UN figures underline the importance of accelerating action to prevent households from becoming food insecure.'

Key recommendations:

  • We call on Government to conduct annual measurement of UK food insecurity, which was last measured over ten years ago.
  • Further research is needed to understand the implications of food insecurity on food choices and health outcomes. Data from the U.S. and Canada suggests that food insecurity is associated with poor health outcomes as well as higher healthcare costs.
  • We call on Government to adopt policies that ensure that all citizens have access to good food as a matter of course, not as a result of charity.


The UN data is based on a nationally representative telephone survey of 1000 adults.  The method used to measure food insecurity has been rigorously tested and is used by Governments in other countries such as the United States and Canada, for regular monitoring. The limitations of the survey point to the need to incorporate measurement of food insecurity in the UK into existing national survey instruments so this problem can be better understood and tracked. Established measurement methods makes this task relatively simple and the cost would be marginal.

Food insecurity is defined as insufficient or insecure access to food due to resource constraints.

Published Friday 6 May 2016

Food Poverty: Millions of people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. We’re working to change that through people-powered projects and campaigns that tackle the root causes of food poverty and ensure everyone has dignified access to healthy, affordable food.

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