Warning as soaring food costs yet to peak and more people in Northern Ireland turning to food banks

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More and more people in Northern Ireland are turning to food banks as it is reported that soaring food costs are yet to peak.

Shop price inflation reached a new high in March amid warnings that soaring food costs are yet to peak.

Shop prices are now 8.9% higher than they were a year ago, up from February’s 8.4% increase, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).

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Jacqui Robb, a Christians Against Poverty (CAP) centre manager from East Antrim, told of the profound impact current pressures were having on some of the people she works with.

A 'family food parcel', intended to feed a family of four for three days. Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty ImagesA 'family food parcel', intended to feed a family of four for three days. Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images
A 'family food parcel', intended to feed a family of four for three days. Photo by OLI SCARFF/AFP via Getty Images

She said: “The cost-of-living crisis has increased the price of every item in our shopping trolleys and, due to this, more and more clients are turning to the local food bank for help on a more regular basis.

“Clients with prepayment meters are running out of gas/electricity prior to payday and having to borrow money just to keep the lights on. Salaries and benefits are not increasing at a sufficient level to even come close to matching increasing costs.

“While we will often be able to help tide people over with some emergency provision, people need urgent additional help and support if they are to be able to survive this current crisis.”

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CAP’s latest YouGov polling – carried out across the UK – shows around 90% of the adult population here think it’s important that more is done to tackle poverty.

Over four in ten adults (42%) have gone without heat at some point this winter, with about one in three (29%) having had to skip meals.

According to the poll nearly half Northern Irish adults (48%) have lost sleep worrying about their finances and the expectation is that there will be pressure for some time to come.

It comes as overall food inflation accelerated to 15%, up from 14.5% last month, while the price of fresh food is now 17% higher than last March – the highest rate on record.

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The increasing cost of sugar coupled with high manufacturing costs contributed to price rises for chocolate, sweets and fizzy drinks, while fruit and vegetable prices also rose as poor harvests in Europe and North Africa limited availability.

Inflation on items other than food also reached a new record of 5.9%, up from 5.3% in February.

BRC chief executive Helen Dickinson said: “Shop price inflation has yet to peak. Food price rises will likely ease in the coming months, particularly as we enter the UK growing season, but wider inflation is expected to remain high.”

Mike Watkins, head of retailer and business insight at NielsenIQ, said: “Inflation continues to have an impact on the spending power of shoppers and increased energy bills from April will add more pressure.

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“Since food prices have risen retailers have seen more visits but less basket spend, as shoppers manage their weekly food bills by shopping little and more often and seeking out the lowest prices.

“And as Easter approaches some high street retailers will also be offering discounts and promotions to encourage customers to spend.”

Last week the Office for National Statistics reported that UK inflation shot up unexpectedly from 10.1% in January to 10.4% in February as the vegetable shortages pushed food prices to their highest rate in more than 45 years.