The below article was published in The Times on 24th March 2022. By James Beal, Social Affairs Editor.
Britain’s poorest families are switching off their cookers, ditching fresh food and huddling in one room to save money in the cost of living crisis, experts say.
Charity bosses said a day after Rishi Sunak’s spring statement that saving was becoming a priority because of spiralling bills and increasing inflation.
Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, claimed some people were unable to accept food parcels containing root vegetables, such as potatoes, because of concerns about the cost of cooking them.
She said: “This is the shocking reality for families who are struggling to afford the essentials, as rising inflation and the inadequacy of our social security system combine to push people deeper into poverty.
“We know people are skipping meals, unable to afford to run cookers and fridges and taking on debt to buy the essentials. This is not right.”
Following the chancellor’s statement, the Resolution Foundation predicted that 1.3 million people, including 500,000 children, could fall below the poverty line next year.
Andrew Forsey, national director of Feeding Britain, said 16,000 households were using its 130 affordable food clubs. There are 130 clubs where people pay about £5-a-week for between £15 and £20 of fresh food.
He said that families are choosing tinned fruit and vegetables rather than fresh food because it “costs less to heat up and prepare”.
Forsey had heard of a pensioner in Glasgow “living her life in one room of her bungalow, under three layers of blankets” because it was the only place where she could feel warm.
He said: “Since October, when the cost of living began to ratchet up for those on the lowest incomes, we’ve seen people who perhaps used to visit once a month, come weekly if not daily.
“They are buying much more of their food from us than they used to and are now asking us if we can help with gas and electricity.
“What has struck me is the amount of pensioners signing up to our service. What keeps me up at night are those additional costs people at the bottom of the pile are having to face.”
The spokesman for the campaign group National Energy Action said that people were not putting the heating on, only heating one room or going to libraries so they could warm up without spending money.