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Household Budgets: Food Prices

Volume 707: debated on Thursday 27 January 2022

Food prices are influenced by a number of factors, including exchange rates and energy prices, both of which have risen since the coronavirus shock. Last year, we published the “United Kingdom Food Security Report 2021” which included a comprehensive analysis of household level food security. It showed that over the last decade spending among the poorest 20% of households has remained relatively stable at 16%.

Shamefully, this country now has more food banks than branches of McDonald’s. As Jack Monroe, the bootstrap cook, highlighted, inflation at a 30-year high has put many staples out of reach of household food larders, yet at the same time supermarkets have thrown away the equivalent of 190 million meals worth of food. Will the Secretary of State sit down with the big top 10 and charities such as City Harvest in Acton, the Felix Project and the newly launched Ealing Food Cupboard, and work out a way to link the two in a circular economy fashion to eliminate both landfill waste and food insecurity?

The hon. Lady raises an important point that we can reduce food waste. A number of supermarkets are already engaged in programmes to support local food banks. The Government support the FareShare charity, which also helps to redistribute food and tries to prevent food waste in the way she sets out.

Further to that question, many large retailers are keeping their budget lines at a higher price than they need to while not raising the price of higher-priced food, so I think there is an argument that they could do more to lower the price of food. Further to the Secretary of State’s comments on FareShare, can he see the £5 million that I think it is due to get food directly from farms, processors and retailers straight out to the people who need it?

I am aware that my hon. Friend has asked previously whether FareShare could also be engaged in making sure that food from farms does not go to waste, and I have said that I am willing to discuss that with it. On his point about prices, we have a highly competitive retail sector and, generally speaking, it has absorbed some of the price pressures to date.