Nearly five million Britons 'struggle to put a square meal on the table'

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The food industry must do more to reduce the impact of high prices on the poor, the Kellogg company has said, claiming that nearly five million people in Britain are struggling to put nutritious meals on the table.

Families now spend 20 per cent more on food that they did five years ago – but are eating seven per cent less, according to a new report issued by the multi-national cereal company. The report calls on food producers to donate some of their surplus to help families living in poverty – one of the first by a major manufacturer to do so.

Job losses and benefit cuts have combined with rising food prices to create a growing food crisis in the UK. The poorest households have to spend almost a quarter (23.8 per cent) of their annual income on food, the report claims, while the richest spend only four per cent. Thousands have been forced to turn to emergency hand-outs. The Trussell Trust, which worked with Kelloggs on the study, says that more than 280,000 people were fed by their food banks in the year 2012/13.

The report classifies poverty as a situation whereby a household must spend more than 10 per cent of their income on food. 4.7 million people in the UK were found to be in this situation, but the report’s authors claimed this was a conservative estimate. Families in this situation are forced to make bad nutritional choices, the report claims, while also warning that the average food bill will rise by £357 by 2017.

Kellogg’s has pledged to donate “15 million breakfasts” to the poor by the end of 2016. The report will be submitted to the Government and calls on ministers to monitor food poverty in the same way fuel poverty rates are measured. Downing Street has been accused of complacency over the food poverty situation in the UK, with the Prime Minister suggesting in Parliament that food banks were useful for

“people who feel they need a little extra food”. People can only be referred to one of the Trussell Trust’s 300 food banks by a care professional, as an emergency measure in a crisis.

“A huge change needs to take place to tackle food poverty,” said Kellogg’s UK and Ireland manager Jonathan Myers. “The food industry can play a crucial part by donating more surplus food.”

Chris Mould, chief executive of the Trussell Trust said: “The research findings are shocking, though perhaps not surprising, and are deeply concerning as they highlight the reduced level of nutrition as well as the reduction of food consumption overall.”