Nearly a third of single parents have resorted to skipping meals to make ends meet because of rising food costs, according to research showing the family types hardest hit by the cost-of-living crisis.
Three in 10 single parent families surveyed said they had missed meals due to runaway food prices. That compared to one in seven parents in couples and an overall figure of 14% in the poll by consumer group Which?
“Our research has found that families across the UK are struggling with the rising cost of living, with single parents likely to skip meals or turn to food banks to make ends meet,” said Rocio Concha, policy and advocacy director.
Which? wants supermarkets to ensure that prices are easy to compare and that cheap food is available everywhere. “As food prices continue to rise, it is critical that everyone has access to affordable food that is healthy for themselves and their families,” said Concha.
The latest official data showed that food price inflation reached 16.4% in October – the highest level since 1977 – due to sharp increases in the cost of staples such as milk, butter, cheese, pasta and eggs. One in ten single parents told Which? they had used a food bank for the past two months at a total of 3%.
Which? said households experienced varying rates of inflation, with single parents and retirees being hit hard as they spend a higher proportion – 30% – of their budgets on food, energy and fuel. For couples with children, this drops to about a quarter. However, all households spend significantly more of their income on basic needs than a year ago.
Another worrying sign is that nearly a fifth of single-parent households and one in seven couples with children said they missed an important bill, such as their mortgage or rent, in September and October. The average percentage of missed payments was 8%.
A woman in her early 40s told investigators that because of the high bills she was “barely able to feed my kids for a few weeks.” Another added: “I don’t eat well so that I have enough money to feed and clothe my children, and still have enough to plug in my electricity meter.”
Paul, an unpaid carer for his disabled son, added that he used to come home with four or five bags of groceries, but “now it’s three”. “I pay the same price for fewer products, even with the special offers. Meat is now very expensive. I sometimes go without food because I prioritize food for my son. I have lost a lot of weight since April.”