Food poverty campaigner Jack Monroe warns cost of living crisis will be ‘fatal’ for families

The impact of the cost of living crisis on the “millions of children living in poverty in Britain” will be “fatal”, a prominent campaigner has told MPs.

The food writer Jack Monroe said for these children, their “home situations and their family’s financial situations are already untenable.”

While giving evidence to the Work and Pensions committee, she added: “The impact of the cost of living crisis on those households is going to be in some cases fatal, and that’s not a term I use lightly.”

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War pushes energy prices up further

She made her remarks amid widespread warnings that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, and the resulting Western sanctions, will add fuel to an inflation fire that was already burning intensely as a consequence of COVID crisis disruption.

Oil prices hit levels this week not seen for 14 years while natural gas costs shot up to record levels across Europe.


Read more: Rises in prices of bread, meat and gas – how the invasion will affect the UK

Crucial commodities such as wheat and many metals have surged in value too, which will all knock family budgets further in the weeks and months ahead as the cost of fuel, food and energy bills go up.

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An energy price cap increase of 54% is imposed from 1 April, affecting 22 million homes, prompting the chancellor to announce aid ahead of his spring statement to MPs in a fortnight’s time.

“Food is one of the most fundamental human necessities for survival. It’s the last thing that any household chooses to cut in their budget,” she said.

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The ‘consequences’ of big pay and price hikes

“But rent has gone up, gas has gone up, electricity has gone up, council tax has gone up, the general cost of living has gone up to a point where people have less to spend on food in their household expenditure.

“In my experience of 10 years on the coalface of anti-poverty work, I can tell you that people are just eating less or skipping meals or having less nutritious food, bulking out on that 45p white rice and 29p pasta in lieu of being able to have fresh fruit and vegetables and nutritionally balanced meals.

“It’s not that food has got cheaper because it certainly hasn’t. It’s that everything else has got more expensive so there’s less in the household budget for food.”

Ms Monroe also stated that prices of essential items increasing while some supermarket value ranges have disappeared from shelves means that the true cost of living hasn’t been reflected in inflation figures.

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Cost of living crisis hits everyone

She said: “That then makes it difficult to identify that a £20 a week food shop a few years ago gets probably about two thirds of what you’d be able to get for that £20 now.”

She added: “The onus on ensuring that people are able to feed themselves adequately and decently and nutritiously shouldn’t fall on the price point of pasta in a supermarket.

“It should be something that people don’t have to do, those macro calculations walking around the supermarket.

Ms Monroe also said that nearly half of people using Trussel Trust foodbanks could be helped immediately.

She argued that they require the support because they’re either “in debt to the DWP (department for work and pensions) or have had their benefits cut, delayed or changed in some way.

“Possibly the most effective thing that could happen would be to change, to strip out, that in-built five week delay for first universal credit payment because that five week delay forces a claimant to take an advanced payment which is then removed back from their benefits over a matter of weeks.

“Simply by closing that gap with the Universal Credit delay will lift half of the people who are currently in poverty in the UK out of it overnight, and that’s a button push”.

Ms Monroe said she was also concerned about the impact the cost of living crisis will have on people with a disability, saying they were five times more likely to be at risk of food insecurity.

“That’s a catch 22 situation because food insecurity is linked to adverse effects later in life so can exacerbate the likelihood of chronic illness, mental illness, depression,” she said.

Ms Monroe also highlighted a housing penalty, saying: “There is a two tier discrimination bar in private rentals as to what is available to people who receive housing benefit, and what is available to people who have that little bit more”.

She said this means that landlords put properties that are “mouldy, damp, uninsulated, single glazed, and pretty unfit for human inhabitation at the rate housing benefit is set at for that area”.