Food poverty in the UK is the harsh reality millions in Britain face daily. Not least of all the four million children growing up on the breadline. Tuesday night’s Dispatches documentary on Channel 4 provided a glimpse into the lives of children across the UK whose parents are unable to afford the daily basics. They’re on the verge of homelessness, and while charities scramble to fill the gaps left by the authorities, the children bear the brunt of system failure and inequality.
Food poverty in Cambridge – Courtney’s Story
Courtney and her brother are as bright and beautiful as any child, but since they had to flee abuse, Mum has struggled to make ends meet and is now on mental health medication. They live in Cambridge where you wouldn’t expect anyone to go hungry. The delay in receiving a Universal Credit payment has left the family living in a house often without heating and an empty fridge. If it wasn’t for the local food bank, Courtney and her brother would not have enough food to eat. Housing benefit has been cut as the authorities feel Courtney and her brother should share a room, but their house has three bedrooms. After failing to secure a property in Cambridge, the family ends up moving to Hull away from friends and family.
Food poverty in Morecambe
Ever since the death of her older sister, Rosie’s family has been struggling to cope with the grief and the financial burden of the funeral. Rosie is nine years old, and her mum gave up work when her sister received the terminal diagnosis. Despite a local fundraiser to help cover the cost of the funeral, the family relies on food banks while struggling to make up the difference. Part-time work and a supplementary payment don’t provide them with an income for everyday expenses, utilities, and food.
Food poverty in Sudbury
After Danielle’s parents split up, she went to live with her mother while her brother is staying with Dad. Both parents are out of work due to mental health issues, and both of them do not have enough money to feed their children. Meanwhile, Danielle is meant to be studying for the GCSEs. The cramped conditions in the bedsit she shares with her mom don’t provide her with space and comfort she needs. Unsurprisingly, Danielle is struggling too. Outbursts of rage and tears alongside thoughts of suicide occur frequently. Encouraged by her parents, Danielle seeks professional help. The GCSE results are disappointing.
Just one disaster away from the breadline
The families portrayed in the documentary suffered a break-up, bereavement, or another type of tragedy. This illustrates how thousands of families are living just one set-back away from poverty. Although the state is providing a safety net, gaps in the system have left four million children in Britain living on the breadline. Food poverty in the UK is real and is likely to increase.
Hungry and poor in Britain – foodbank and poverty statistics
Trussel Trust publishes foodbank statistics on a bi-annual basis. Between April and September 2014, the charity provided nearly half a million three-day emergency food parcels across the UK. This figure has been rising and now stands at 823’145 parcels for the same period in 2019.
According to the Social Metrics Commission, nearly seven million people in Britain are living on an income that is at least 50 per cent below the official breadline. This figure includes 2.3 million children. Years of austerity and the transition to Universal Credit have plunged millions of British people into dire poverty.