A week in news: children and NHS staff going hungry – the latest food and drink headlines 24-28 October
The UK got its third Prime Minister in two months this week, with the appointment of Rishi Sunak to Number 10. The former Chancellor has inherited a chaotic set of circumstances from Liz Truss, whose resignation last week earned her the title of Britain’s shortest-serving leader. Sunak has warned that the country and its people face “profound economic crisis”, and this news will undoubtedly affect the food sector. As the industry adjusted to another Prime Minister this week, these were the biggest headlines in food and drink:
Rishi Sunak becomes PM and shuffles the cabinet
News of Sunak’s appointment as PM will certainly have an impact on the food and drink sector, but it remains to be seen whether this will be positive or not. During his original bid for the premiership, Sunak had promised to lead a “pro-farming” Government, and he has previously been vocal about the importance of farming to his own constituency of Richmond (Yorks). It is unknown how his influence may affect other areas of the industry, however his supporters believe he has the ability to repair businesses’ confidence, which took a major battering under his predecessor.
Sunak has already begun selecting his frontbenchers, and several appointments will have a direct impact on UK food. Thérèse Coffey has been named head of Defra, while Grant Shapps is the new Business Secretary. The new PM has also appointed Michael Gove as Levelling Up Secretary and Steve Barclay as Health Secretary.
Plant-based food sales increase, but meat purchases still growing steadily, research shows
The average weekly sales of plant-based foods increased by nearly 60% in the 2021 Veganuary period in the UK, but there was no reduction in meat sales, according to research published by the University of Surrey this week.
According to the report, the increase in sales of plant-based products were seen the most in superstores, where 58% more products were sold, and in low-income areas, where 64% more plant-based goods were purchased. The higher level of sales was a result of “increasing visibility, accessibility, affordability and availability of plant-based products”, the researchers noted. Find out why researchers think more plant-based purchases haven’t impacted the fortunes of the meat industry.
Leicester hospitals open food banks specifically for NHS staff
Hospitals in Leicester have opened a slew of food banks specifically targeted at NHS staff currently struggling to keep up with the cost of living crisis. Employees can access food, toiletries and supermarket vouchers through hospital restaurants and chapels.
The facilities will be kept open throughout the winter, and the news is accompanied by a number of other food and wellbeing initiatives aimed at easing the pressure on lower-paid staff – around 30% of hospital workers earn between just £20,000 and £23,000. Other support put in place by hospitals includes the reduction of food costs in canteens, children of staff eating for £1 in hospital cafés, free facilities to wash and dry clothes on site, and free staff travel on hospital buses.
Nearly a quarter of a million children in London don’t have access to enough food, report reveals
Around 250,000 children are expected to be living with food insecurity in the capital, Labour London Assembly Member for Lambeth and Southwark, Marina Ahmad, revealed this week.
Using data from the 2021-2022 Survey of Londoners, the report estimated 14% of parents in London have children experiencing low or very low food security, which amounts to around 237,129 food-insecure Londoners aged under 16. The findings also showed children with single parents were more likely to struggle. Learn what Ahmad is demanding be done to fix the situation.
Restaurant and hotels owner Whitbread warns of incoming £60M price hikes
The owner of Premier Inn Hotels and the Beefeater restaurant chain has warned that prices are still projected to soar because of inflation. Whitbread said this week that it had now largely recovered from the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, but that the current economic crisis could push running costs up by as much as £60M.
Analysis from the company suggests that while hotel room demand is likely to remain steady, the pub and restaurant sector overall “remains challenging”. This chimes with general worries from pub managers and landlords, 41% of which fear they won’t survive a year in the current climate.