Svetlana EkimenkoAll materialsWrite to the authorAugust shop price inflation in the UK has reached its highest levels since 2008, adding pressure to households already struggling with the cost of living crisis. Amid soaring energy bills as well as high petrol prices, families on the lowest incomes are expected to be hit hardest.UK Food banks are warning that amid the rising cost of living there has been a “dramatic” surge in the number of people seeking emergency help, The Guardian reported.Predicting a “bleak and disturbing” winter, 70 percent of the 169 food bank representatives interviewed by the publication revealed that they might be forced to turn people away or downsize emergency rations. Almost 90 percent of the food providers said demand had risen since April, with 87 percent acknowledging severe supply issues, a survey by the Independent Food Aid Network UK (Ifan UK) showed.Food donation levels have plummeted since April, according to almost three-quarters of the providers. One in five of the food charities are already shrinking the size of emergency rations, and more than half have been forced to resort to their own limited cash reserves to augment food parcels.
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Food Banks ‘Buckling Under Strain’
Rocketing food prices and plummeting donations have resulted in a deficit of £56,000 in the first half of 2022 for Kirkcaldy Foodbank in Scotland.“This situation is completely unsustainable, and we have begun to take steps to limit the support that we can provide. We have real fears about what lies ahead – both for the people who need our help and for our ability to meet those increased needs,” the food charity stated.
There have been growing fears that the growing squeeze on household budgets will result in the spiraling of “poor mental health”.
“Suicides as a result of the stress and distress people are now experiencing” are a possibility, Su Parrish of the Easter Team Christian charity based in Crawley, West Sussex, was cited as saying.
The cost of living crisis was a “clear and present danger”, Simon Lellow, operations manager of Telford Crisis Support, has warned.“The effects are already deepening the existing issues surrounding poverty and the need for food banks and other charitable welfare support services. With the most recent energy price increases, rate of inflation and lack of countermeasures, the outlook for the final quarter of the year is bleak and disturbing,” he said.
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‘Heading for Catastrophe’
This comes as shop price inflation soared by a record 5.1 percent in August, led by a 10.5 percent rise in fresh food prices, according to new figures published by the British Retail Consortium and market research firm NielsenIQ on Wednesday. This is the highest rate since September 2008.Since 2021, energy and electricity prices in Europe have been rising rapidly following a global trend. Inflation and the growth in food and energy prices accelerated across Europe against the backdrop of sanctions imposed on Russia over Ukraine.With the UK’s inflation rate reaching 10.1 percent year-on-year for the month of July, the US investment bank Goldman Sachs also warned on 30 August that it might top 22 percent next year, if wholesale energy prices remain at their present high levels.Despite UK gas prices dropping by more than 20 percent on Tuesday amid reports of ongoing efforts to fill European gas storages ahead of winter, energy costs remain 12 times higher than before the energy crisis spiraled.“When even food banks are warning they may need to shut up shop this winter because they can’t meet the demand, we know the country is heading for a catastrophe without action,” shadow work and pensions secretary, Jonathan Ashworth, said.Furthermore, millions of homes throughout Britain could be facing fuel poverty after energy regulator Ofgem announced on 26 August that the energy price cap would increase by 80 percent from 1 October because of rising global energy prices. This move would take the average gas and electricity bill from £1,971 to £3,549 a year.Independent Food Aid Network (Ifan) UK, which supports more than 550 food banks throughout the country, has urged the government to introduce “urgent, cash first interventions.”
According to Sabine Goodwin, a co-ordinator of Ifan UK, additional government support is needed as relying on overburdened food banks was “unconscionable and unsustainable”.“It’s for the government to ensure the basic needs of its citizens are met, not food aid charities buckling under the strain,” Goodwin said.