Cost of living: Experts warn 'it can't go on' as food bills set to surge by £1,000

Inflation fell to its lowest levels since March 2022, down to 8.7% in April, but food prices have continued to increase

Shopping cart, close up
Inflation may be down but food prices have continued to skyrocket, forcing families into food banks. (Getty)

Experts have warned that rising food prices "can't go on", as more families are forced to use food banks or skip meals to make ends meet.

While consumer price index (CPI) inflation fell to its lowest levels since March 2022 (down to 8.7% in April), food prices have continued to increase – up 19% in April.

The increase means that for the average family, annual food bills are expected to rise by £1,000 by July, according to experts at the Resolution Foundation think-tank, surpassing the increase in energy bills and exacerbating the cost of living crisis.

"Look at this through the eyes of people forced to turn to food banks because they can't afford essentials, and the volunteers trying to keep up with an ever-rising tide of need. It can't go on," tweeted Helen Barnard, director of policy, research and impact at the Trussell Trust, sharing a link to price hikes on specific food items.

Read more: What is inflation and how is it calculated?

She added in a statement to Yahoo News UK: "There are a multitude of reasons why people have been forced to use food banks, including the rising cost of living and food inflation.

"However, for too long people have been going without because social security payments are not based on a real reflection of life’s costs, pulling people deeper into unacceptable hardship as a result.

"We all deserve the dignity of staying warm, fed, and protected from poverty and we know with the right financial support, people would not be forced to experience hunger or turn to charity for the essentials.

File photo dated 26/04/16 of stocks of food as food banks are having to hand out more emergency parcels than ever before, a UK-wide charity has said. (PA)
Food banks say they unable to stock up enough to provide for the people who are now struggling to buy food. (PA)

“It’s time to guarantee our essentials and for the UK government to urgently change the law so that the standard allowance of universal credit will always cover our essentials."

The rise in food prices is hitting poorer families hardest, with less well off households spending 14% of their total budget on food, compared to 9% for the highest-income households.

This means the effective inflation rate for the poorest tenth of households is two percentage points higher than for the wealthiest fifth, according to the Resolution Foundation.

Resolution Foundation research director James Smith said: "Inflation has finally fallen back into single digits as the energy price shock last spring drops out of the latest annual inflation rate. But the cost of living crisis is evolving not ending – with surging food prices now taking centre stage.

"Surging food prices are particularly painful for low-income families, three-in-five of whom are already reporting that they are having to cut back on food and other essentials."

Which foods have gone up the most?

According to the Office for National Statistics, consumers continue to face budget-breaking price rises on kitchen cupboard essentials such as sugar, up 47.4% on a year ago; eggs, now 37% more expensive; and pasta and couscous, up 27.7%.

The figures come a day after Kantar reported that grocery price inflation has fallen for the second month in a row but remains at an “incredibly high” 17.2%.

In the dairy aisle, the average cost of four pints of milk has come down by 8p since last month, but is still 30p higher than this time last year at £1.60.

The increase has seen some people who used to donate to food banks start using them themselves, the CEO of the L6 Centre foodbank in Liverpool told the BBC.

“People who used to donate food 12-18 months ago are now using the food bank. We get people needing help from right across the board," Gerard Woodhouse said.

“There’s anything up to 100 families using the food bank and it’s not getting any better – it’s getting worse.”

The Chancellor of the Exchequer Jeremy Hunt speaking during the British Chambers Commerce Annual Global conference, at the QEII Centre, London. Picture date: Wednesday May 17, 2023. (Photo by Jordan Pettitt/PA Images via Getty Images)
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt sad food prices were 'worryingly high'. (Getty Images)

The chancellor, Jeremy Hunt, has urged food producers to curb their prices, warning industry leaders about “widespread concern” over the current cost of food. However, many manufacturers insist that they are already absorbing much of the increased costs themselves.

Hunt, who described prices as "worryingly high", spoke to the BBC following the news that inflation was down.

“The fact that they have come down markedly – the headline rate – of course is welcome news, but there are things underneath those numbers which show that this battle is far from over," he said.

"We’ve got a long way to go.”