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Food banks are a crucial lifeline, but we must not lose sight of why people are food insecure in the first place.

Emily Roe, Campaign Manager at the Living Wage Foundation discusses the issue of food insecurity and the need for a real Living Wage. 

Marcus Rashford’s work over the last year has been a lifeline for so many families. The success of the #EndChildPovertyCampaign has so far meant millions of children received meals throughout the summer, Fareshare made record donations, and a Child Food Poverty Task Force was established with some of the biggest companies in the food industry. This work is vital in ensuring children have access to food, but we shouldn’t lose sight of why so many are food insecure in the first place: they don’t have enough money.  

The link between low pay and food insecurity is evident in the Living Wage Foundation’s ‘Life on Low Pay’ report which was published this week. The report found that 27% of full time workers (just over 1 million people) earning below the real Living Wage regularly skip meals, and almost half of those have children. With a record 1.9 million meals given out last year and a constant rise in the number of families using foodbanks, the need for a real Living Wage is more pressing than ever.  

At the beginning of January - the same week as the UK’s supermarkets announced record sales - I spoke to Sue, a supermarket worker who told me that most days she felt anxious about whether she’d be able to pay for food for her family. Having worked at the store for over 25 years, each month things were getting tougher, after paying for rent and bills she barely had enough left for the basics.  

Sue is just one of the millions of key workers who are cleaning, feeding, caring, protecting our families but struggling to support their own and simply exhausted by life on low pay. I couldn’t help but think of the irony of her employer supporting the campaign to end child food poverty.  

To truly end food insecurity for workers and their families, we must pay them a real Living Wage. Businesses don’t need to wait for the government to act; nearly 7,000 businesses have already accredited with the Living Wage Foundation and pay the real Living Wage (£9.50 in the UK and £10.85 in London). Businesses that can, should join Aviva, Burberry, Everton FC and thousands of other businesses up and down the country to take a stand against wages that don’t truly cover the cost of living and pay their staff a real Living Wage.  

10th February 2021
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