In U.K. Cost-of-Living Crisis, Some Workers Struggle to Feed Children

When her two sons demanded snacks she could no longer afford, Aislinn Corey, a preschool teacher in London, spread a blanket on the floor and played a “picnic game”. She takes an orange or an apple obtained from the preschool food bank and cuts it in three to share.

“We do it as an activity,” she said. “So they didn’t know that the mummy was struggling.”

She says dinner is often reduced to “pasta pasta,” and sometimes she skips meals altogether in order to have more food for her kids.

As the cost of grocery shopping and heating housing has hit record levels in recent months, signs of trouble are everywhere. BBC posted Dozens of recipes online costs less than a pound, or about $1.23, per portion. Some schools have turned off their heaters. And many communities have opened”warm space” — heated public rooms for people with cold homes.

But in England, one of the richest country in the worldOne of the most shocking signs of the cost of living crisis is that more and more workers are struggling to feed their children.

Some are heading to food banks for the first time.

Vicky Longbone, a church pastor who runs a food bank in Derby, central England, said: “It’s so bad that the very people who are working come to us.

For the working families hardest hit, the crisis is long in the making.

Job growth has left Britain with fewer unemployed households, but many people who find work still fall short of a decent standard of living, leaving them vulnerable as inflation hits a 41-year high in a matter of months. in advance and the salary is not up to date.

A decade of austerity measures by Conservative-led governments have also eroded the benefits paid to many low-income families, including working-class households. Since 2016, the UK has one of the highest minimum wages in the world for most workers, benefiting some of the lowest income earners. But many of them still can’t find enough hours to work and the incomes of low earners in the UK have been growing more slowly than ever before. in some other western countries including Germany and France.

“It’s more difficult because the last 10 years have been so bad,” said Greg Thwaites, an economist at the Resolution Foundation, an independent think tank that focuses on living standards.

Then, in October, consumer prices rose 11.1% from a year earlier. With the cost of energy and food fueling inflation, lower-income families, who spend most of their income on necessities, have been hit hard. Growth slowed slightly in December, but consumer prices were still up more than 10% from a year earlier.

While some key statistics, including the latest annual figures on child poverty, are not yet available, there are clear signs that many workers, including working parents, are under severe stress, as well as growing evidence that children are starving at home.

Although the percentage of working families that rely on food banks is still very small, they are now a notable part of food bank users. Trussell Trust, which operates grocers nationwide and recorded more than 300,000 new users in the first half of last year, say One-fifth of their customers by mid-2022 come from working households.

In London, Hackney Food Bank delivered meals to 647 children in December, up from 330 a year earlier. Some School has started provide free meals to all students, not just those who qualify them through the welfare systemand a principal in a deprived area of ​​the city said that many children and their parents started relying on their breakfasts thanks to the free toast the school handed out at the front gate.

The Felix Project, which supplies surplus food to organizations across London, says half of the 183 charities it supports recently reported people working full-time in their jobs for the first time. public sector to use their services.

“You see the ambulance crew, the teachers going to the food bank,” said Kingsley Fredrick, who works for a food bank in east London, at the end of another busy shift. “What does it say about a community, about a country?”

Low-income Londoners have been hit hardest by the cost of living crisis, according to a report. analysis by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, a British research institute, with added pressure from rising rents. But the crisis has spread beyond the capital, with Scotland and northern England also hard hit.

On a recent night, Alicia Marcano, 46, a nurse, walked into a food bank in the Hackney neighborhood of east London for the first time. She listened attentively to the volunteers’ instructions, then, with her eyes down, began packing boxes of beans, cookies, and pasta. “This is new land for me,” she said.

In recent months, she has saved money by packing lunches of hot dogs and burgers for her 12-year-old daughter instead of paying for school meals.

“Normally I wouldn’t give her anything like that,” she said. “But it’s cheap.”

Some lawmakers in the ruling Conservative Party have argued that demand for food banks does not reflect actual demand. One, Lee Anderson, says the real “challenge” is that people using food banks “can’t cook properly, they can’t cook a meal from scratch, they can’t budget.”

A spokesman for the Department for Work and Pensions says the government recognizes that families are struggling and has recently set aside billions of pounds to help people pay their bills during the spending crisis. cost of living.

Resolution Fund said in a recent report that the government has properly prioritized lower-income families in these measures. However, a YouGov survey conducted for the report found that 11% of people said they were hungry but did not eat because of lack of money in the past month. Before the pandemic, that number was 5%.

The government also noted that child poverty rates fell during the peak pandemic years, but experts say this decline could be related to government benefits related to the pandemic have ended.

Christalla Jamil, chief executive of a group of 10 schools in some of London’s most deprived areas, said she sees the impact of the daily cost of living crisis. Some kids have started bringing just one bag of cookies for lunch, she says — and their parents have gotten those from the school food bank. Some teaching assistants have even started visiting food banks.

“This is heartbreaking,” she said. “And more heartbreaking because it’s all our people.”

Chefs in Schools, a charity focused on school meals, said teachers have reported that children steal food from their classmates to take home and hide in playgrounds when they are not carrying it. What to follow for lunch.

“We are one of the wealthiest countries on earth,” said Naomi Duncan, chief executive officer of the charity. “We can do better for our children.”

The government says more than a third of children in the UK get free meals at school, as do all children in their first three years of learning English. But the charities argue that many older children from low-income families do not meet the application threshold because their parents earn more than the limit for the grant, which for many is 7,400 pounds a year.

For some children, school meals have recently become the only reliable, nutritious meal of the day, teachers and charities say.

Sharon Grant, a part-time cashier at an Asda supermarket in London, says recent energy costs often leave her with little or no money to buy food. Like many low-income people, she has to pay for electricity and heat first, putting the money in a prepaid watches in her apartment. In the winter cold, 50 pounds per meter can only last for a few days, she said.

Some days, she has to feed her 15-year-old twin sons and 11-year-old daughter cereal for dinner. On her worst nights, she had nothing to give them, and she noticed that they began to struggle with schoolwork.

“They’re not as bright as they used to be,” she said. “They’re hungry.”


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