Britain’s food banks brace for worst winter yet

LONDON (Reuters) – Britain’s biggest food bank network warned on Wednesday it was expecting its worst ever winter, with over 600,000 people likely to need support as a cost-of-living crisis now in its second year curtails spending power.

The Trussell Trust, which supports a network of 1,300 food bank centres across the United Kingdom, said it expected to provide more than one million emergency food parcels between December this year and February 2024.

That would be a record number of parcels for this period of time and compares to 904,000 a year earlier.

“We don’t want to spend every winter saying things at food banks are getting worse, but they are,” Emma Revie, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said.

“One in seven people in the UK face hunger because they don’t have enough money to live on.”

The trust appealed for more donations, as a surge in need meant most food banks have to buy stock to make up for a shortfall.

Britain is the world’s sixth-biggest economy but its citizens have been pressured for more than a year by high inflation which until recently outstripped pay growth for almost all workers.

While inflation is now slowing, more than 60% of UK households still saw their disposable incomes fall in August compared to a year earlier, according to supermarket group Asda’s monthly Income Tracker.

UK consumer price inflation peaked at a 41-year high of 11.1% in October 2022. It eased to 6.7% in August this year, still among the highest rates in Western Europe, with food inflation at 13.6%.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s key economic pledge is to halve overall inflation in 2023 before a probable election in 2024.

Almost one in three British adults expect to spend less on Christmas this year, according to a PwC survey published on Monday.

(Reporting by James Davey; Editing by Bernadette Baum)