Researchers fear that people experiencing this food insecurity are “likely” to be susceptible to hunger and malnutrition.
In the report’s conclusion, it urged the government to suspend the two-child limit on benefits and tax credits, and also introduce a “seamless” school meals programme that operates year-round.
The findings are the result of a survey conducted by Feeding Britain and Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab.
The survey of 1,004 adults in the UK found that 25 per cent of them have struggled to access food that they can afford during the pandemic.
In addition, nearly one in four adults have had to eat less in order to make sure that their children stay fed.
The survey also investigated the measures adults have taken in order to keep food on the table.
Many adults are shopping for cheaper food than they normally would.
It found that half of adults overall have bought less expensive food which they ordinarily would not have chosen to purchase.
However, this amount rises dramatically for households that are “the least food secure”, the survey added; it claimed that 90 percent of adults in such households have bought cheaper food during the pandemic.
The report described “high food security” as households where there is “no problem or limitation in accessing the food they need in sufficient quantity and quality”.
By contrast, the report described the least food secure group, referred to as “very low food security” households, as having to “frequently need to reduce their food intake, are hungry, or regularly go without food for long periods of time”.
The survey investigated how adults are dealing with food during the pandemic.
The researchers also found that adults within this least food secure group are also the most likely to have used “coping strategies” including wasting less food, cooking main meals from scratch, and paying more attention to meal planning.
In addition, one in three adults in this group who are looking after children have resorted to more frequently eating less so that their children can eat.
This compares to one in sixteen adults who reported little or no problem in accessing the food they need.
However, the researchers added that such coping strategies – which also included borrowing food and using food banks – “has not enabled adults to become food secure live free of hunger and potential malnutrition”.
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Nearly a quarter of parents are eating less in order to keep their kids fed, the survey suggests.
Andrew Forsey, Director of Feeding Britain, said the survey “reveals the lengths to which millions of people in our country are going” to feed themselves and their families while the pandemic continues.
Forsey said: “It reveals also the uphill struggle that all too many of them have faced in doing so while attempting to maintain their dignity, independence, and self-sufficiency.
“During Feeding Britain’s emergency food programme, through which our regional networks will have distributed a million meals by the end of June, it has become increasingly clear that a broader group of households, in addition to the very poorest, are struggling to pay the bills and still put food on the table. This survey shows, sadly, just how many of our fellow citizens are now in that group.
“They have been exposed to hunger and potential malnutrition by a combination of low income and isolation, which has tended to follow a loss of earnings or problems with the benefits system.”
The survey lists using food banks as a coping strategy used by some.
Meanwhile, Professor Greta Defeyter, Director of Northumbria University’s Healthy Living Lab, said that the findings “presenting an appalling picture of the high percentage of adults experience food insecurity in the UK”.
Professor Defeyter added: “If we, as a country, are to stand a chance of getting to grips with this problem, we need the Prime Minister to oversee and implement with urgency a national food strategy which enhances the supply, affordability, and accessibility of nutritious food to everyone in our country, while minimising the need to deploy the many coping strategies, such as the use of food banks, which we have identified through this survey.”