"I'm really struggling to make ends meet," says Heidi in line at the blackboard in Colchester, east England.

Many Britons are currently in the same situation as the 45-year-old.

Inflation in the UK rose to a 30-year high of 5.4 percent in December.

Real wages are falling, food and energy costs are rising. 

The food banks in the UK are now experiencing a real onslaught.

Everything has become more expensive, says Heidi.

She now has to spend around £80 (€95) a month on electricity.

Last year it was between 40 and 50 pounds.

The Colchester food bank, nestled between supermarkets in a commercial district, gave out a total of 165 tonnes of food last year, enough to feed around 17,000 people.

The head of the board, Mike Beckett, estimates that the number could rise to 20,000 people in need this year.

In the very worst case, it could be up to 30,000 people, he says.

"A nightmare."

More than 2.5 million table visitors

Nationally, the number of visitors to the food banks rose from 26,000 in 2009 to more than 2.5 million last year, according to the organization Trussell Trust, which administers the food banks.

The journalist and activist Jack Monroe suspects that the sharp rise in the cost of many staple foods is behind the misery.

The actual costs have risen far more than the official inflation rate, as she calculated in a well-regarded post on Twitter.

Rapidly increasing prices of staple foods

500 grams of the cheapest pasta at her local supermarket would have cost 29p a year ago, Monroe wrote.

Today the price is 70 pence - an increase of 141 percent.

The price for the cheapest rice increased by 344 percent from 0.45 pounds to a pound.

"The system we use to measure the impact of inflation is fundamentally flawed," she says.

"It completely ignores reality and the real price hikes for people on minimum wages, dinner-goers and millions of others."

Table boss Beckett shares this assessment.

Measuring inflation "doesn't really take into account that cheap food is going up by hundreds of percent," he says.

The situation is further aggravated by the government's decision to reduce the social benefits raised during the Corona crisis back to their original level.

food or heating

"People tell us that they sat in the car for 20 minutes or an hour before they had the courage to come to us," says Beckett.

Many "didn't think they would ever need it." But they had no choice.

"When it's cold, people have to choose between eating and heating."

According to a report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation welfare organization released in January, certain welfare regulations — such as the five-week waiting period for first payments and the two-child cap on child support — “have directly contributed to greater food insecurity and contributed to increases in food bank take-up.” .

Even more Britons could be in trouble soon, as the cost of living for British households is expected to rise again in April.

In addition to tax increases, the main reason is a significant price increase in energy costs by a whopping 50 percent.