'I only have one meal a day so my kids can eat': Muslim families reveal impact of UK’s rising cost of living

Food bank UK
5 min read
09 June, 2022
As the cost of living spikes at its highest ever peak and the UK is seeing the worst level of inflation in 30 years, there are many Muslim families who are struggling more than ever.  

The impact of rising costs is being felt across the UK as many families continue to struggle, with many relying on the pivotal role of charities to help them get through these difficult times.

Ayesha, 42, (name changed for confidentiality) is a divorced mother of three from the UK who has been struggling to pay her rent and keep up with the rising cost of her bills.

"The cost of bills keeps me awake at night, so much so that I had to sell whatever jewellery I had to raise money to pay the rent and keep the heating on"

“I only have one meal a day so my kids can eat as I worry that if I spend too much my kids might go hungry," she tells The New Arab. "The cost of bills keeps me awake at night, so much so that I had to sell whatever jewellery I had to raise money to pay the rent and keep the heating on.”

Muslim families reveal impact of UK’s rising cost of living
Household budgets across the UK have been hit hard by rising costs of food, fuel, and energy, pushing some into poverty [Getty]

Living costs spiked this year, with consumer prices going up 6.2% and domestic gas prices seeing a concerning rise of 28% since January 2021.

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The increase has led to many families resorting to seeking help from charities and their local food banks.

“I’ve not been too well so I cannot go to work and I will have to use a food bank because my energy levels are low and I need to eat more than I’m eating now. I feel quite ashamed about my situation,” Ayesha adds. 

The mother softly sobs, then regained herself, telling The New Arab how she had to make phone calls to the food bank when her children were at school.

Muslim families reveal impact of UK’s rising cost of living
Foodbank use is soaring in Britain, with many now seeking assistance, as soaring inflation, food and energy costs force people to choose between 'heating or eating' during the winter months [Getty]

“I’ve been acting like everything is okay in front of my kids as I don’t want them to worry, plus they are too little to understand. After calling the food bank, we are able to eat more food that day, but the children never know where it was from or that I had used a food bank."

"I’ve been acting like everything is okay in front of my kids as I don’t want them to worry"

Ayesha is not the only one facing tough decisions to help keep their household running.

Fatima (name changed for confidentiality) shares a similar plight. As a young, single mum she finds the rising bills a ‘nightmare’.

“I’m going to have to look for another job now as I need two jobs to survive. This means I will have to also fork out on childcare and the cost of it currently is crazy. I don’t have support from family or friends as I live far away from them and on my own. I feel this (rising costs) has really impacted my mental health but I pray to God for better days.”

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Fatima says she knows many other families who are suffering but are unwilling to share their troubles.

“There is a stigma within the community that we feel some sort of embarrassment to say we need help, to say we are struggling financially. It’s not our fault we are struggling we didn’t ask for these extra costs, but many of us in the Muslim community are suffering in silence.” 

Muslim families reveal impact of UK’s rising cost of living
A Muslim volunteer organises sugar donations at a food bank in north London for both Muslims and non-Muslims as part of their Iftar for All project last Ramadan [Getty]

The increase in the cost of living has affected everyone across the UK but the national charity, National Zakat Foundation (NZF) says that Muslims are among the worst hit by this new financial crisis, and around 50% are already living on the poverty line following the pandemic.

"There is a stigma within the community that we feel some sort of embarrassment to say we need help, to say we are struggling financially"

The current increases have led to a 90% increase in hardship relief funds by NZF since last year, with almost a 100% increase within the Muslim female demographic.

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Dr Sohail Hanif,  CEO of the National Zakat Foundation told The New Arab, “We've had nearly 20,000 applications in the past year from people needing emergency help for themselves and their families. With energy costs rising, food prices on the increase and benefits and wages not keeping pace with inflation, we expect the situation to worsen."

Hanif further stated, "We raised more money than ever before this year as our community responded to the cost of living crisis, but at the same time, the number of people in need is growing faster than ever."

"With energy costs rising, food prices on the increase and benefits and wages not keeping pace with inflation, we expect the situation to worsen"

Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a £15 billion package of government support to help with the rising costs of living in the UK. Sunak pledged that almost all of the eight million most vulnerable households across the UK will receive a one-off cost of living payment and additional support – but for many families like the ones we’ve spoken to at The New Arab, this may not be quite enough.

“It is good that he (the Chancellor) is bringing in some help, but how long will we have to wait for that? We are struggling now and in my situation, I still don’t think it will be enough to make up for all the bills I’ve had to pay and sacrifices I’ve had to make to keep my home running,” Fatima told The New Arab.

Tasnim Nazeer is an award-winning journalist, author, and Universal Peace Federation Ambassador. She has written for Al Jazeera, The Guardian, The Huffington Post, Middle East Eye, CNN, BBC, and others. She was awarded the FIPP the global network of media Rising Stars in Media Award 2018.

Follow her on Twitter: @tasnimnazeer1