AS MANY as 1,000 households may be forced to seek weekly food support and face malnutrition in the coming months due to the rising cost of living, says a new report.

The findings, presented to Brighton and Hove City Council last week, revealed that at least 5,870 people were supported through community emergency food providers every week in July last year, with 17 per cent of those being children.

It also warned that up to 7,000 people in the city could enter fuel poverty this month and that a percentage of those will need emergency food support, with a larger proportion seeking help in the winter months.

“Estimates vary from 200 to 1,000 extra households needing weekly food support, but it could be higher,” the report said.

It said more people in the city will suffer malnutrition as a result, and could also face a higher risk of homelessness and addiction problems.

‘NHS workers among those needing support’

Brighton and Hove’s Emergency Food Network, a coalition of 44 community food groups, is calling for a full enquiry into the role that food banks and other forms of food aid have in the UK in plugging gaps in the welfare system, amid concerns that food banks are under increasing stress.

Vic Borrill, director of the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership which convenes the city’s Emergency Food Network, said: “The number of meals and food parcels delivered has increased more than 12 fold in the past nine years and continues to rise.

“We are seeing increasing numbers of people who have never needed a food bank before, including those who are in work, for example NHS workers.

“People of all ages and backgrounds are at risk of malnutrition, homelessness, poor educational attainment, and mental and physical health breakdown - all for want of a decent household income.

“Volunteers at food banks tell us that it’s like being on a hamster wheel, they are busy helping people all week, then have to start over again the next.

“This is not sustainable and the situation is desperate. The voices of hungry people need to be heard and the government must do more to help.”

'Astonishing number' needing support

City council leader Phelim Mac Cafferty said his administration is taking action to address the issues arising from the cost of living crisis, including food insecurity.

He said: “An astonishing number in Brighton and Hove are supported every week accessing food through community emergency food providers such as food banks.

“This, in the sixth richest country in the world, is a damning indictment of over a decade of Tory government.

“In the sight of such unfairness, we are rolling up our sleeves and doing all we can to help residents in need.

“We’ll provide a new home for City Mission which is one of the key frontline organisations helping with emergency food and do this through leasing one of our buildings to them.

“This is one of the many things we are doing to support residents most in need to challenge the inequalities created by the government’s failure to deal with the cost of living crisis.”

Demand for food bank ‘up 30 per cent last year’

Brighton Pavilion MP Caroline Lucas said that, on a recent visit to a food bank, it reported an increase in demand of 30 per cent last year and a further 20 per cent increase this year so far.

She said: “More and more residents are contacting me with reference to the cost of living crisis, but food poverty isn’t new - it follows on from over ten years of Tory austerity.

“Not only is the government not doing anywhere near enough - it’s actively making things worse. The government was warned about the impact of cutting Universal Credit, but went ahead with it anyway, and the food bank made clear to me that this has caused a direct increase in referrals.

“Brighton and Hove City Council has done an award-winning job working with the Food Partnership to help tackle food poverty but we also need national solutions, and what we’ve seen from this government is an abject failure to provide them.”

‘Bloody livid’ by scale of crisis

On a visit to Worthing for local election campaigning yesterday, shadow Work and Pensions secretary Jon Ashworth told The Argus that the numbers of people needing emergency food support “sadly don’t shock me, but they make me bloody livid”.

He said: “We shouldn’t be in a society where a parent in Brighton, Hove, Portslade or parts of Worthing is forced to make a choice between feeding the meter or feeding their children.

“We shouldn’t be in a situation where the hours of a job are so limited, the pay is so paltry, that you are forced to pick up a food parcel on your way home from a shift.

“This is what is happening after 12 years of economic mismanagement and that is why the Labour Party says it doesn’t have to be like this.”

Mr Ashworth said the party would take “immediate action” with a windfall tax on oil and gas companies to help cut energy bills and would not have gone ahead on taxes on working people and cuts to Universal Credit.

“People have got to ask themselves, after 12 years of Conservative government, are you better or worse off,” Mr Ashworth said.