Hidden hunger crisis hitting hard-up parents - report

Almost one in four parents are skipping meals because they cannot afford to buy food, revealing shocking levels of "hidden hunger", according to a new report.

A survey of over 2,000 adults showed that more than one in 10 do not have enough money to buy meals, rising to almost one in four of parents with children under the age of 18.

Most of those questioned by End Hunger UK, a coalition of anti-food poverty charities, said their food bills had gone up in the past few months.

Around one in 12 of those polled said they had gone without food for a whole day because of lack of money in the past year.

Parents with primary school-age children were most likely to go without food or see someone in their household skip meals.

Four out of five adults believe the Government should monitor how many people are "food insecure".

The poll also showed that one in five adults bought cheaper or discounted food while almost one in 10 relied on friends and family for a meal.

Laura Sandys, founder of the Food Foundation, one of the charities in the coalition, said: "The research shows that more and more of British families are unable to provide regular meals and are frequently anxious about providing the basics - food on the table for their families.

"Not only is this unacceptable in 21st century Britain but we have to start counting the health and social consequences for the next generation.

"We know that food insecurity can trigger a range of unhealthy eating habits and force people to buy cheaper, less nutritious and more calorific food."

Labour MP Emma Lewell-Buck, whose bill urging the Government to measure food insecurity will be read in Parliament on Friday, said: "Now is the time for the Government to sit up and tackle the growing issue of hunger in our country.

"We know that 1.1 million food parcels are given out in Trussell Trust food banks alone but these figures are clearly the tip of the iceberg - the United Nations has estimated over eight million people in the UK are food insecure, approximately 2,000 food banks and food bank centres are in operation, rising levels of hospital admissions due to malnutrition cost the NHS £12 billion per year and there are record levels of in-work poverty."

The coalition said its figures revealed a "hidden hunger crisis" across the UK amid forecasts of record numbers of people using Trussell Trust food banks.

Speaking on behalf of the Church of England, which is a member of the UK End Hunger UK campaign, the Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Rev Rachel Treweek, said: "That nearly a quarter of parents are saying they cannot reliably afford to feed their families shows that it is time to take a serious look at what
we are doing about the growing problem of household food insecurity in the UK.

"I am amazed by the generosity of the volunteers who run food banks in churches all over the country, helping those in the most acute need, but it is now clear that we need to do much more to reduce the need for food banks in the first place, starting with a commitment from Government to measure the scale of the underlying problem."

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