The over-65s are being hit the hardest by rising food prices, with many struggling to afford the basics, research suggests.
More than 1.5 million British pensioners are now living in food poverty – and the situation is set to worsen this winter, according to new research.
The Centre for Economics and Business says a quarter of over-65s have had to make cutbacks on food over the past three years, and over one million are malnourished or at risk of malnutrition because they are struggling to afford basic nutritious food.
The reason is that while the cost of living has continued to rise, incomes have not kept pace.
Increasing food prices in particular have hit the elderly the most.
The study shows over-65s will spend an average of £699 on food between October and December this year – that’s an increase of £138 compared to the same quarter five years ago.
And by 2018 there will be an additional increase of £297 on top of that bill. It all adds up to the over-65s being harder hit than any other demographic.
Raina Barnes, 82, from Perivale, Middlesex, has been attending the Age Concernlunch club in Greenford for the past few months. Hot meals and warm company are provided by the charity.
Mrs Barnes, who was widowed last year, remembers when a £30 shop would easily last a few weeks. These days, she says, you get “hardly anything” for that amount.
“I think the supermarkets are taking us for a ride. One minute they’re putting their prices down. The next they’re going higher. You’ve only got a certain amount of money to spend,” she says.
“All the basics like bread, milk and eggs are the things you need all the time. I mean eggs have just gone up terrible. You just have to see how it goes.”
Sharing the dinner table with Mrs Barnes is 88-year-old Harry Thomas, a World War Two veteran. Mr Thomas says he shops around to compare the best prices in local supermarkets.
“It’s a very hard thing these days for people, the price of things. You go to one shop and the price might have been dropped and you go to another and the price goes up a little bit.
“You never know what to buy. All I do is look at the price and say ‘too high’ and I don’t bother.”
Danny Woolcott, 87, has been a regular at the lunch club for more than six years. The retired mechanic, from Southall, visits three times a week.
He blames the Government for “letting pensioners down”.
“I would like to see any government looking after the elderly people of this country.
“The people who brought this country along are being neglected badly and I think it’s disgusting the way things have been left, honestly and truthfully.”