Cost of living crisis

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The current cost of living crisis comes on top of a pre-existing poverty crisis in the UK. Before the pandemic, 22% of people were already living in poverty. Millions more Britons are expected to experience extreme hardship this year. Food aid colleagues report that the demand for food bank parcels increased by 128% in the last five years and it is rising further.

Accessing a healthy, sustainable diet is beyond the reach of too many

The cost of living crisis has further exposed the pre-existing health and wealth inequalities in the UK. Household food insecurity is rising, obesity rates still climbing and health outcomes in deprived areas are worsening. Governments need to tackle the root causes of poverty.

Our food system exacerbates the problem, when it could provide some of the answers. Food and drink is the UK’s largest manufacturing industry and yet 22% of the food system workforce are on minimum wage or below. Supermarkets post huge pre-tax profits but farmers receive only 8% gross value added for their produce.  800,000 children in low income households do not receive a free school meal and the budget for healthy start cards has been reduced.

Real living wages, fair prices and access to public sector contracts for farmers and food producers, and local food infrastructure that leaves more money circulating in communities would make a huge difference. We also need a nutritional security net; the Healthy Start scheme needs to be fixed, universal free school meals should be the norm, meals on wheels services revitalised.

More than £2.2bn is spent on food in the public sector annually and it feeds one in four of us. There should be legally-binding, enforced standards for all public food, which needs to be healthy, produced in a way that helps restore nature and tackles the climate emergency.

25% of households with children have experienced food insecurity in the past month.

The poorest fifth of households would have to pay 47% of their disposable income on food to meet government recommendations for a healthy diet.

An estimated 25% of farmers live below the poverty line, while supermarket CEOs make 140 times more than the median employee.

73% of Britons support extending free school meals to all primary school children in England when told it’s already happening in Scotland and Wales.

What we're fighting for today

Extension and value increase of Healthy Start to all families on Universal Credit and equivalent benefits with children under 5 years old, including families with no recourse to public funds.

Free, nutritious school meals for all school children.

Legally binding standards for all public sector food, so the most vulnerable people get good food, and public money supports sustainable farming and reduces greenhouse gas emissions.

A food plan and a properly resourced food partnership in every local authority area to ensure cross-sectoral collaboration and strategic action to address the most pressing social, environmental and economic issues.

A Food Bill in every UK nation, that provides the duties and powers needed to support genuine, long-term food system transformation.

“The time has come for us to say, ‘enough is enough’. We need the rules of the game to change”
Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive of Sustain

Campaigns from our alliance:

The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) cash first approach to food insecurity.

#FeedTheFuture campaign calling for expansion of free school meals, with Impact on Urban Health, Bite Back, Jamie Oliver, The Food Foundation, School Food Matters, Chefs in Schools, Sustain and the Children's Food Campaign.

Which? Cost of living hub provides free advice to help people through the cost of living crisis.

Alexandra Rose Charity helps families on low incomes access fresh fruit & vegetables in their local communities.

Bridging the Gap programme brings together multiple organisations to explore ways to build better supply chains between climate friendly food and people on a lower incomes.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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