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COVID-19: latest impact on food

Food Foundation Covid-19 analysis 

FAMILIES IN THE UK ARE BORROWING MONEY TO BUY FOOD JUST A WEEK INTO LOCKDOWN

Today, the Guardian reported on our YouGov survey, which found that millions of people in the UK are already struggling to get the food they need and falling into debt because of the coronavirus pandemic.

More than 1.5 million adults in Britain say they cannot obtain enough food, 53% of NHS workers are worried about getting food, and half of parents with children eligible for Free School Meals have not received any substitute meals to keep their children fed, despite government assurances that they would provide food vouchers or parcels. This means that 830,000 children could be going without daily sustenance on which they usually rely.

The government has identified 1.5 million people who are at greater risk of Covid-19 and instructed them to stay at home, promising to work with military planners to ensure that in a few weeks, a food parcel delivery scheme will reach 400,000 people. Our breakdown of vulnerable groups, however, shows that more than twice that number – 860,000 people in the medically vulnerable category – were already facing food insecurity before the crisis.

Central government is making concerted efforts to ensure support reaches those who need it most, but the current approach lacks coordination, and relies heavily on independent food aid projects which are already overstretched and operating at full capacity in order to meet the existing, pre-corona demand for assistance from families living in poverty.

There is an urgent need for a clear, coordinated effort which enables everyone to act in the right way to address the need for providing food aid for the sick and vulnerable. The Food Foundation is calling for the government to establish a fast-moving and accountable national food aid coordination mechanism to mobilise and oversee these operations. The task force must be led by a single minister, and should conduct a comprehensive assessment of need. It will coordinate across government with local authorities, businesses and charities to deliver the right package of food and financial assistance

The full results of our YouGov poll are as follows:

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2070 adults. Fieldwork, unless otherwise stated, was undertaken between 25th-26th March 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults 18+.

  • More than half (54%) of parents with children aged 8-16 living in their household and eligible for Free School Meals report not receiving any substitute meals for their children, despite government promises to deliver support
    • 830,000 children could be going without the Free School Meals on which they rely for daily sustenance
    • Government guidance around Free School Meals (FSM) indicates that eligible children should receive prepared meals, food parcels (for collection or delivery) or supermarket vouchers from schools, but more than half of the families surveyed who should be receiving this support say they are not
  • 12% of those surveyed – equivalent to 6.1 million adults[1]say they’re struggling to follow the government’s guidance to stay at home because it will mean losing out on essential income
    • Those in lower socioeconomic groups reported this more frequently than their higher income counterparts (15% vs. 9%)
  • 6% report that they have already needed to take out a personal loan or borrow money as a result of COVID-19
    • This means that over three million[2]people may have borrowed money in order to manage their households
    • People with children in their households are 2.5 times as likely to have taken out a personal loan or borrowed money, compared to those without children
  • More than 1.5 million adults[3] in Great Britain now report that they are unable to obtain the food they need: 3% of respondents reported that they are not managing to get the food they require. This does not include the children who live with them.
  • As a result of coronavirus, nearly half (44%) of people surveyed are worried about getting the food they need
    • People with children aged 8 to 16 in their household are more worried about getting food (52%) compared with those with no children (40%)
    • People with children are more worried about getting fruit and veg (50%) compared with those with no children (42%)
    • 59% of parents with a 5-11-year-old are worried about getting enough food
    • 72% of parents of children receiving free school meals said they were worried about not getting enough fruit and veg
    • 52% of unemployed respondents are worried about not getting enough food, and 58% are concerned that they won’t be able to access enough fruit and vegetables
    • 50% of those with underlying health conditions are worried about getting enough food compared to those without (40%)
    • 53% of NHS workers were worried about getting food, compared with 43% of key workers that do not work for the NHS.

[1] Adult population calculations made by the Food Foundation based on mid-year population estimates

[2] Adult population calculations made by the Food Foundation based on mid-year population estimates

[3] Adult population calculations made by the Food Foundation based on mid-year population estimates