Online Grocery Bank Searches Soar 250% Amid Cost of Living Crisis

A collage of a blackboard and a supermarket shelf

More people are looking online for access to food banks and welfare (Images: PA/Getty)

Online searches for the nearest food banks have skyrocketed as the cost of living crisis pushes once “safe” people into food insecurity.

The British are busy at the moment with a lot of things. Staggeringly high inflation, recession, rising bills and a falling pound to name a few.

And such concerns have weighed heavily on people’s minds since March 2020, according to a Labor Party analysis of Google searches.

Searches for “grocery banks near me” increased by 250%.

Searches for “energy bill help” are up to a five-year high, while “apply for universal credit” is up 50%.

The number of searches for “universal credit in advance” has more than doubled.

Sylvia Culshaw (L), volunteer stock manager, sorts groceries at the Blackpool Food Bank in Blackpool, north west England, on March 9, 2021. - In the UK's most deprived areas, such as the seaside resort of Blackpool in north-west England, the coronavirus pandemic has worsened the financial hardship of its most vulnerable residents. But individuals and families who did not previously depend on emergency government aid were suddenly finding themselves turning to soup kitchens and charity food banks for food. (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)

Food banks have long been a lifeline for low-income Brits, but now even the ‘safe’ are turning to them (Image: Getty Images)

Fuel Poverty Action said people scrambling for emergency food systems is a sign things are getting worse – and fast.

“Not long ago everyone was talking about the choice between heating and eating,” the campaign group told

“Now many people can’t afford both – and being cold and starving at the same time is a recipe for disaster.”

Michael Clarke, head of information programs at anti-poverty group Turn2us, said the government needed to act as people grew desperate.

“It is clear that not enough is being done to prevent people from falling into poverty,” he said.

“We are already seeing that nearly half of our service users are left without a living after paying housing, council tax and utility bills each week.

“As the weight of this crisis puts more people in the red, more needs to be done in the long term to reform our economy and halt the growing inequalities in our society.”

Inflation is one of the main reasons for the increase in food insecurity.

Mandatory Credit: Photo by amer ghazzal/REX/Shutterstock (13362540a) Shoppers at a local Sainsbury's supermarket branch in Wimbledon, south west London. CPI inflation has hit a 40-year high of 10.1% as the UK's cost-of-living crisis worsens as food prices rise. Bank of England warns of recession with inflation forecast to top 13 per cent by the end of 2022 Rising inflation and cost of living crisis, Wimbledon, London, United Kingdom - 03 September 2022

Sticker shock becomes a general sentiment for shoppers (Picture: Shutterstock)

Above all, higher prices for housing, gas, electricity and groceries mean that for more and more Britons, food banks are the only way to feed themselves.

Some food prices have risen by as much as 80%, pushing UK inflation to a 40-year high.

And the implications of this are clear. According to a study by grocery retail app Ubamarket, nearly two in ten Britons use grocery banks as they feel supermarkets are too expensive.

Even discounters are falling short, researchers found, as 52% of Britons feel their prices are not low enough to offset inflation.

So the number of starving Britons will continue to grow, said Will Broome, CEO of Ubamarket.

“Our data shows that almost 6.7 million Britons will rely on these charities to make ends meet amid the cost of living crisis,” he said.

Food bank donations are falling again as needs reach beyond those on low incomes, Mr Broome added.

He said: “The cost-of-living crisis has brought the nation more to the attention of the struggles that others have been experiencing for years and that are now affecting middle-income people.”

Kane Daniel Ricca, group marketing director at LAB Group, a digital agency that developed the foodbank finder app Foodbank Connector, isn’t surprised by any of this.

“When the current party took office in 2010, Statista reported that there were 61,000 blackboard users in the UK,” said Mr Ricca.

“Twelve years later, this number is now given as 2.1 million – if that doesn’t provide a realistic assessment of the current situation, then I don’t know what is.”

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Justin Scacco

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