Food price hike puts pressure on poor families struggling to feed their children


#WriteNow – Marcus Rashford calls on people to urgently contact their MP

  • Latest official Government data shows inflation remains a serious problem with food price inflation 1.4% higher than pre-pandemic, forcing struggling families to make tough decisions about their children’s diets.
  • These food price rises come on top of recent rises in household energy costs, piling further pressure on low-income families suffering the effects of the Universal Credit cut.   
  • 55% of households with children are worried that not being able to afford their energy or food bills will directly affect their children’s health and wellbeing. This rises to 73% in households with children on Free School Meals
  • As part of Marcus Rashford’s #WriteNow campaign, every MP across England has heard from their constituents to ask them to take targeted action to tackle child food poverty. 

Latest data from the Consumer Price Index (CPI) released today shows food prices climbed in September, making it even harder for many low-income families to buy enough food. The CPI rose by 2.9% in the 12 months to September 2021. Food price inflation was 1.4% higher in September 2021 than it was before the pandemic in January 2020, and 0.91% higher than it was at the start of this year in January 2021 with the uplift seen last month having been maintained.

This is due to knock on effects of HGV crisis, labour shortages especially in hospitality sector, the rise in prices of CO2 and increases in world food prices.

Energy prices have also soared with the cap on energy bills having increased 12% on Monday 1st October, with predictions that this will make the cost of living untenable for Britain’s poorest households this winter. The pressure of food and energy inflation will be especially hard on low-income working families who already spend a large amount of their income of food and are suffering the effects of October’s £20 cut to Universal credit. 

New data from The Food Foundation shows half (50%) of households with children think the increase in energy bills will mean they have to consider buying less food. This rises to two thirds (67%) in households with children on Universal Credit. 

Furthermore, 55% of households with children are worried that not being able to afford their energy or food bills will directly affect their children’s health and wellbeing. This rises to 73% in households with children on FSM. 

There will be little respite in Spring, when the tax increase on earnings is introduced from April following the Chancellor’s decision to raise income tax and national insurance.   

Joseph Rowntree Foundation estimate that even before taking food price inflation into account, a couple with two children earning less than £20k annually and on Universal Credit will be approximately £33.50 worse off per week with the combined effects of the fuel price increases and the cut in Universal Credit. This is approximately the same amount which an average household in the poorest 10% of households spends on their entire weekly food and drink budget [ref].   

These latest figures raise the stakes for Marcus Rashford’s #WriteNow campaign that encourages the public to ask their MPs to tackle the growing problem of child food poverty. Every MP across the 533 constituencies in England has been contacted by the public, showing nationwide support for Government action. Marcus’s campaign calls for additional funding for 3 children’s food programmes in the Autumn Spending Review on 27 October as recommended by the Government-commissioned National Food Strategy. This includes the expansion of Free School Meals to more low-income children to ensure more food insecure children receive this vital support to prevent them going hungry – a request so far ministers have rejected. 

Kathleen, mother in Portsmouth, said:

“It was already hard enough to keep to a tight budget and put a balanced meal on the table every night for the kids. But now, with food and fuel prices rocketing, it’s a constant struggle to buy enough food to fill our stomachs. I’m terrified that we’ll reach breaking point this winter, and we’re going to have to choose between paying for our heating, driving to work or putting food on the table.” 

Anna Taylor, Executive Director of Food Foundation said:

“At a time when families are under extreme cost pressures with mounting living costs and reduced social security, the increase in food prices will have a huge impact on a low-income families’ ability to feed their children well. Government needs to take control of this situation.  We’re otherwise in real danger of an even more severe child nutrition crisis this winter. We need to see a reversal of the Universal Credit cut and children’s food programmes, including Free School Meals, extended so that at-risk children can depend on at least one decent meal a day.”


Notes to Editor
Please contact:  
Jo Ralling – 07770 500858 / [email protected] 
Raf Bogan – 07891 286 340 / [email protected]
Social Media   
Twitter: @Food_Foundation  

Data sources
Inflation statistics: Office of National Statistics, Food Price Indices Data, September 2021. Data available here.  Represents a basket of 166 food items sold by retailers measured consistently between January 2020 and September 2021.

Survey data from The Food Foundation: Data collected by Focaldata from a nationally representative sample of 1587 parents of children aged 0-17 between 27th – 28th September 2021 using its proprietary data collection platform FDCore. Focaldata is a research data company that has been at the forefront of using the latest data collection software and machine learning based techniques to estimate public opinion.

About #WriteNow 
The 3 recommendations Marcus Rashford is supporting, part of Henry Dimbleby’s National Food Strategy, will guarantee that every child at risk of going hungry gets some good food every day. They are: 
1.    Expand Free School Meal eligibility to all children aged 7-18 in all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits, and to children that are undocumented or living in households with the NRPF immigration condition. 
2.    Provide long-term funding for the Holiday Activities and Food Programme, increasing eligibility in line with Free School Meal expansion.  
3.    Expand Healthy Start eligibility to all households earning £20,000 or less after benefits with pregnant women or children under five and invest in a communications campaign to increase awareness and uptake of the scheme. 

About The Food Foundation   
The Food Foundation is a charity working to influence food policy and business practice, shaping a sustainable food system which makes healthy diets affordable and accessible for all. We work in partnership with researchers, campaigners, community bodies, industry, investors, government and citizens to galvanise the UK’s diverse agents of change, using surprising and inventive ideas to drive fundamental shifts in our food system. These efforts are based on the continual re-evaluation of opportunities for action, building and synthesising strong evidence, convening powerful coalitions, harnessing citizens’ voices and delivering impactful communications.  
Registered Charity Number 1187611 
About the Child Food Poverty Task Force   
Formed by footballer Marcus Rashford, the Child Food Poverty Task Force is a group of businesses and charities who, over the coming weeks, will dedicate their platforms to sharing real stories of those most affected by child food insecurity in the UK, supported by real-time statistics. The task force comprises: Aldi, Asda, Co-Op, Deliveroo, The Food Foundation, Fareshare, Iceland, Heinz, Kellogg's, Lidl, Marcus Rashford, Tesco, Sainsbury's, Yeo Valley Organic and Waitrose & Partners. 

The intention and objective of the task force is to see sufficient funds from the Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review allocated to implement the 3 policy recommendations – a unifying step to identifying a long-term solution to child food poverty in the UK. 

I am looking for...