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Rising food prices in Scotland: The human impact

Posted by Adrian Doherty Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer

13th Oct 2011

Oxfam poll reveals Scots are skipping meals to feed their children. Growing concern pensioners are being forced to "ration" food.

Oxfam today (Thursday) reveals the startling effects of rising food prices in Scotland. A new Ipsos MORI poll - commissioned by the charity - shows Scots are having to buy lower quality food, change how and where they shop and even skip meals to ensure their families are properly fed.

Published ahead of World Food Day on Sunday (October 16), the poll charts the real life effects of rising food prices in Scotland, as compared with the other nations and regions across the UK.

Those highlighted include former Chef Chris Bell who survives on a food budget of around £12 per week. Chris suffered a stroke last year and is now struggling to feed himself. Centre chairman Danny McCafferty warned the situation for some Scottish pensioners is now so bad that it is directly comparable to the period of rationing after the Second World War. Pensioners also attended the Resource Centre, which offers support - including debt advice.

The new Oxfam poll reveals:

* More than three quarters (76%) say the amount they spend on food has gone up in the last year.

* One in twenty (5%) of those polled say they have been forced into skipping a meal over the last 12 months so that their families can eat.

* One in four Scots polled (25%) say the quality of the food they are eating has dropped over the last twelve months, the highest percentage in the UK.

* Just under one in four (23%) spend £40 a week or less on food.
The poll comes at a time when food prices in the UK have been rising at well over twice the rate of the incomes of the poorest.

Former chef, Chris Bell, 43, from Clydebank said:

"I've worked as chef for 26 years, but right now I've got to choose between eating microwave dinners or eating some fresh vegetables and freezing. You can't know how frustrating it is; I know what I should be eating and how to prepare it, but I can't afford it. After everything else is paid, I've only got around £12 a week to spend on food. I know there are millions of people in the world worse off than me, but that doesn't help me get a full belly."

Mother of two Ann, 48, a full-time council worker, added:

"There are times that I can't afford my shopping bill. When that happens I'll make sure that my son eats before I do. In the last fortnight before pay day I would say I skip meals maybe twice a week, just to make sure that he has enough. I've had to change the way I shop to find cheaper things."

Clydebank Independent Resource Centre chairman Danny McCafferty said:

"We're seeing a growing number of people using the centre to access support to deal with these issues, but one group who are particularly badly affected are pensioners. They're forced to continually hunt for the best deal on whatever food they want to buy, and they can tell you the price of everything. They search between shops for the best deal because they have no other option - five or ten pence really counts. In some ways they've gone full circle. Those who are in their 70s and 80s experienced rationing and shortages after the Second World War, and now they're going through it all again."

The publication of the poll is part of GROW, Oxfam's biggest campaign ever which is calling for a fairer global food system.

Judith Robertson, Head of Oxfam Scotland, said:

"Rising food prices are a global phenomenon and, despite the UK being one of the world's richest economies, it's affecting people here too. It is a gross injustice that poor people in Scotland are finding it increasingly difficult to feed themselves and their families. They are far from being alone however - one in seven people in the world go hungry every day."

* Ipsos MORI interviewed 117 Scottish adults face-to-face between 9-22 September who fell below an income bracket set by the government's Households Below Average Income measurement, after taking into account household composition. This was a self-reported measure of their disposable income, not taking into account household costs. The full poll results are attached.

* Over the last 5 years food prices have been rising at well over twice the rate of the National Minimum Wage (From October 2006 to October 2011, the National Minimum Wage increased by 13.64% (from £5.35 to £6.08). In the five years from August 2006 to August 2011, food prices have increased by 31.60% [Source: CPI]). And at nearly twice the rate of Jobseekers Allowance (From April 2006 to April 2011, the level of Jobseeker's Allowance from an adult aged 25+ increased by 17.49% from £57.45 per week to £67.50).

* According to the Office for National Statistics, consumers spent £620million less on food, equivalent to £30 per household, during the three months to the end of June 2011 compared with the first three months of the year.

Food price increases in the Scottish media
* Food bills and cuts put the squeeze on families - Daily Record
* Cost of porridge and other breakfast favourites soars due to grain shortage - Daily Record
* Rising cost of food keeps Britain's families on financial tightrope - The Scotsman
* Food bill inflation hits 23-month high with 5% increase - The Herald

Blog post written by Adrian Doherty

Oxfam Scotland Social & Digital Media Volunteer

More by Adrian Doherty