By Sarah Bates
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Food bank charity warns of ‘devastating rise in need’ as food prices soar

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Supermarket bosses blame rising energy and supply chain costs, but they're still raking in profits
Issue 2830
cupboard food items donated to a foodbank in a black bag

Millions of ordinary people are braced for a winter of hunger

Soaring food prices mean ever-greater swathes of Britain will struggle to put food on their plates this winter.  

Food price inflation soared to a record 11.6 percent in October, according to figures from industry body the British Retail Consortium released on Wednesday. That’s up from 10.6 percent in September. 

Supermarket bosses are pointing the finger at higher energy bills and fuel costs and the Ukraine war, which has disrupted the supply chain of staple goods. Helen Dickinson, chief executive of the British Retail Consortium, said, “It is increasingly difficult for retailers to shoulder the ongoing supply chain pressures.”

But bosses are still going to rake in profits. Tesco, for instance, last month said that it still expects profits of £2.4 to £2.5 billion in 2022-2023—down on its previous forecast of £2.4 to £2.6 billion.

The price of essential items such as bread, milk and sugar is behind the latest surge in prices. And the figures show that fresh food was becoming even more expensive—from 12.1 percent in September to 13.3 in October. It’s the highest rate on record for the category of fresh food. 

The price of teabags isn’t the only thing on the rise, with a leading food bank charity warning of a “devastating rise in need”. The Trussell Trust has launched its first-ever emergency appeal for funds, as it has already used up its reserve stock that it would plunder during the winter months. 

CEO Emma Revie said the “soaring cost of living is driving a tsunami of need to food banks”. She said there is a “perfect storm of rising energy prices, inflation and a potential recession that is pushing people deeper into poverty”. 

Yet, despite millions braced for a winter of hunger, the Tories are resisting implementing one of the most effective strategies to tackle it—extending free school meals. The Feed the Future campaign is urging the Tories to widen access to the free school meals scheme, initially to children whose families receive Universal Credit or other benefits.

In England, just 1.9 million children are eligible for the scheme, which operates at a household income cap of the miserly amount £7,400.

Children could live in families where their parents earn several times this amount and still be in poverty. According to the Child Poverty Action Group, some 800,000 children are living in poverty but miss out on the scheme. In Scotland and Wales, all primary-age children have recently been offered free school meals. 

Instead of extending help to families in need, local authorities are axing holiday food voucher schemes from children entitled to free school meals. 

Footballer Marcus Rashford humiliated Boris Johnson’s government in November 2020 when he forced it to fund food vouchers for poor children out of term time. But now some local authorities have axed the scheme, leaving parents scrambling to fill their children’s plates. 

Emma Cantrell, founder of First Days, said the child poverty charity was now regularly seeing children who were “visible malnourished”. And she said they required wraparound support from First Days—so not just food, but school uniforms and beds too. 

The Tories’ state-sanctioned starvation of some of the poorest working class children is yet another reason to join the People’s Assembly march in London on Saturday. And everyone has to fight to escalate and coordinate the strikes to force out this government. 

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