In inflation hit UK, hunger could become ‘new normal’: study

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Going hungry in the UK due to historically high levels of food inflation risks becoming “the new normal” for millions of people, according to a study released on Tuesday.

The study by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) at the University of Sussex said it was “concerning” that 14 percent of the population was now suffering from food poverty.

“Access to food in the UK is very inequitable, and we believe that more attention needs to be placed on overcoming these inequities than simply focusing on increased food production through ever more industrialised agriculture,” said IDS director Melissa Leach said in a statement.

From fewer than 100 food banks in the UK a decade ago, the number rose to more than 2,000 in 2021, with 9.7 million people in food poverty in September 2022, according to the study.

“Over the last decade, charities have stepped in to plug the gaps left by the state but this is not an acceptable or sustainable way to address the growing prevalence of hunger,” Leach added.

The study comes as soaring food prices are up more than 18 percent in the year to May, according to latest official figures, despite a slight slowdown in the rate of increase.

The UK is in the grip of a cost of living crisis, with inflation hitting 8.7 percent last month, resulting in Britons buying less food, according to data released last week.

Under pressure to bring prices down, the main British supermarket chains told a parliamentary committee on Tuesday that they were doing everything possible.

Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) watchdog is currently investigating whether a lack of competition between UK supermarkets has resulted in higher prices for shoppers.

But Tesco commercial director Gordon Gafa told the business and trade committee this was an unfounded claim.

“We have not made more profit year-on-year. We have actually made seven percent less profit versus our last financial year. It’s important to be clear on that from the outset,” Gafa said.

“Food inflation slowed for the second consecutive month (in June), particularly for fresh products, as retailers cut the price of many staples including milk, cheese and eggs,” Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, told the committee.

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