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Running on Empty: FareShare survey highlights dramatic impact cost of living crisis is having on the most vulnerable in society

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30 March 2022

A major new survey of more than 1,200 charities and community groups, which rely on food from FareShare to feed more than 120,000 people at risk of hunger, today highlights the dramatic impact the cost of living crisis is having on the most vulnerable families across the UK.

“Demand for our food is as high as it’s ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our new campaign, #RunningonEmpty, to highlight the difficult circumstances that many families are facing across the UK and are calling for more support for those struggling to feed themselves, and more donations of food from across the food industry to help meet that need.”

Lindsay Boswell, CEO, FareShare

FareShare is the UK’s biggest charity fighting hunger and food waste. It takes surplus good-to-eat food, which is unsold or unwanted by the food industry, sorts it in its warehouses across the UK, and passes it onto a network of over ten thousand charities and community groups.

In its survey, nine out of ten (90%) of the organisations say their services have been affected in some way by the cost of living crisis, with seventy-one percent (71%) saying they’ve been “moderately” or “severely” affected. More than 75% of the organisations who responded to the survey say they’ve seen an increase in demand for their services over the past year.

Food, fuel, clothes, travel and household bills have all been rising steadily in recent months, with inflation now running at 6.2%, its highest level for 30 years. From next month national insurance will also rise by 1.25 percentage points.

Nearly seven million people are said to be going hungry in the UK, including two million children. That is an increase of 2m since the pandemic. And research suggests that by next month, almost half of all children will be living in families who’ll be unable to meet the cost of some basic necessities.

In addition to providing nutritious meals, using the food redistributed via FareShare, many of these organisations (87 %) also provide vital support to help people facing difficulties. These issues include support with unemployment or low income, homelessness, family break up and abuse, mental health issues and addiction.

Among the reasons given by the charities as to why people are accessing their services, 65% say it is because of the increases in the cost of food, 52% say it is because of rising energy bills, 63% say it is because of changes in universal credit, 60% give unemployment as the reason and 54% say low pay. Health is also given as a major factor – 56% say mental health issues and 36% say physical health issues.

Ruth Thomas (not real name) is a full-time carer, from Caerphilly in Wales. She started using a local pantry supported by FareShare about four months ago, after her husband had to leave his job due to ill health and is really feeling the impact of the cost-of-living crisis.

“We went from a household with income, coming out of furlough without a wage coming in, and started to think, what am I going to do? Our energy prices have gone up by £50 since October. It’s a scary prospect. I am a full-time carer. I look after my son who has an illness which requires us to do up to three washes of clothing a day. We’ve had to be much more inventive – I can’t go out and grab a coffee with my friends, I have to take a flask of tea. I couldn’t imagine that 6 months ago that we’d be dealing with this”

Single mum Alison Trevellion in Aylesham, Kent, says she couldn’t manage every week without the help of a local charity. “I work on the weekends, but I don’t earn a huge amount and without the help of Bechange, I’d really struggle to put food on the table for my daughter and me. I’m working really hard to make ends meet but it’s so difficult with bills and groceries all shooting up almost overnight.”

Marcus Baker, who lives in Bath, was made redundant when Covid first hit and has struggled to find work since: “I’ve just got a massive gas bill in the post, and if it weren’t for Action Pantry in Bath, I don’t know what I’d do – they are a godsend!”.

Now, FareShare UK is launching a new campaign to highlight the cost of living crisis is having on struggling families across the UK. #RunningonEmpty will use powerful images and personal testimony to highlight the difficult choices people are having to make across the UK. The charity is appealing for more donations, volunteers and food, to help people at risk of hunger in the UK.

Lindsay Boswell, FareShare CEO said: “Our survey of our charity network illustrates the impact that price rises, and the cost of living crisis is having on communities across the UK. With predictions that inflation is set to rise yet further, the ongoing impact that the conflict in Ukraine is having and expected tax rises, it is clear that many families – who faced furlough and uncertainty during the pandemic, are now experiencing added difficult hardship. Demand for our food is as high as it’s ever been. That’s why we’ve launched our new campaign, #RunningonEmpty, to highlight the difficult circumstances that many families are facing across the UK and are calling for more support for those struggling to feed themselves, and more donations of food from across the food industry to help meet that need."