The cost of food is a big worry for the vast majority of Britons while the number of people who skip meals or use a food bank has jumped in the past year, according to the Food Standards Agency (FSA).
Its research shows food prices are a significant future concern over the next three years for more than three-quarters of UK consumers (76%), and the number using a food bank has risen from around one in 10 in March 2021, to nearly one in six this March.
More than one in five (22%) of those surveyed in March said they skipped a meal or reduced the size of meals because they could not afford to buy food.
Almost 70% said the cost of healthy food was a big concern for the future, and almost two-thirds of people cited food poverty and food inequality as a concern for the future of food in the UK.
Food insecurity was more prevalent among those on lower incomes, younger people, people living in larger households, and for Asian, Black, African and Caribbean people.
UK inflation reached 9% in April, the highest rate in more than 40 years, with the cost of food, energy and transport escalating, according to official figures.
Shop prices rose in May to the fastest rate in more than a decade, according to figures from the British Retail Consortium and NielsenIQ. Food inflation leapt to 4.3% in May from 3.5% in April, the highest since April 2012.
Half of people surveyed expressed significant concerns about food standards since Brexit. In particular, many worried that “poor practice” from abroad would increasingly reduce the safety and quality of food available in the UK.
The FSA said it was working with businesses to ensure that donating their produce was as straightforward as possible, and to support those working in food banks and those using them to follow best practice for storage, preparation and cooking.
Prof Susan Jebb, who chairs the agency, said: “In the face of the immediate pressures on people struggling to buy food, food banks are playing a vital role in our communities.
“We are urgently working with industry and other major donors, and food bank charities, to look at what more we can do together to ensure that food which is safe to eat can be redistributed to people who can benefit from this support.”
The FSA, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and the waste reduction organisation Wrap have published best practice surplus food redistribution guidance.
Marcus Gover, the chief executive of Wrap, said: “We support the FSA’s efforts to address the concerns many of us have around the cost of food. We estimate that more than 200,000 tonnes of surplus food could still be redistributed each year.”