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Food Poverty

There is currently no established measure of food poverty in the UK (unlike the measure for fuel poverty). This is despite the fact that the average UK household spends more than twice as much on food as it does on utilities.

For the purposes of Hard to Swallow: The Facts about Food Poverty report, food poverty was defined as households that have to spend more than 10% of their income on food as being in food poverty. But this statistical measure doesn’t tell the whole story.

People’s spending on food adjusts according to their situation and some families struggling to make ends meet will cut back on food expenditure and may even go without meals such as breakfast.

However, food poverty is often only part of the story. People experiencing food poverty are often more likely to be facing wider issues of poverty such as unemployment and poor quality housing, lack of choice, insecurity and social isolation.

There are a lot of myths that exist around food poverty:

Myth
Food poverty does not exist in the UK it is one of the richest nations in the world

Reality
It is a shocking truth that foodbanks are a lifeline for a growing number of individuals and families in the UK.

Even more staggering is that the trend of numbers turning to food banks has increased dramatically in the last year. 13 million people live below the poverty line in the UK and 5.8 million people in the UK live in deep poverty.

Recent statistics from The Trussell Trust show that 913,138 people received three days emergency food from their food banks 2013-14, compared to 346,992 in 2012-13. This trend and other evidence suggests that the need for food banks is going to increase and will continue to increase as a result of welfare reforms and the increased cost of living (in particular food, energy and housing costs).

Myth
Greater Manchester is one of the key economic centres in the North of England so there is no way that food poverty is an issue in this thriving sub region

Reality
Evidence from The Greater Manchester Poverty Commission report in January 2013 suggests that there are 600,000 residents in Greater Manchester who live in extreme poverty. There are concerns that without proactive support nearly 1.6 million people could slide into further poverty.

Myth
People are using food banks because they are not managing their household bills properly

Reality
A 2012 Save the Children report suggests that parents are adept at managing on tight budgets. However, with food price increases people are spending more on food but eating less, and for those with little money this can mean cutting back on food and skipping meals.

Myth
People visit food banks because the food is free not because they really need it

Reality
It is becoming increasingly challenging for people to eat a balanced diet due to the increase in food prices, especially fresh fruit and vegetables food banks are providing vital support to people who are struggling to afford essential foods. Individuals cannot just turn up to a food bank and be handed a food parcel. Care professionals such as doctors, health visitors, social workers, the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) and police identify people in crisis and issue them with a foodbank voucher. Foodbanks partner with a wide range of care professionals who are best placed to assess need and make sure that it is genuine. Food banks are providing emergency support for many families, children and the elderly.

Myth
Food banks are providing food for scroungers.

Reality
Along with drastic changes to welfare support, the last few years has seen wage increases below the rate of inflation while food prices steadily increase.

This has meant that there is increased pressure to pay for household bills and has seen many families having to spend less on food each week, with a move towards buying cheaper, lower quality produce.

Recent research conducted by The Trussell Trust and Netmums found that 78% of parents in working families have cut spending over the last 12 months and 56% admit to having to buy cheaper, lower quality food. The survey also found that only 1 in 40 had turned to a food bank for help, with more than 70% saying that they would only do so as a last resort.