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Cost-of-living support should be ‘more targeted’ for vulnerable – Tesco chief

The boss of Tesco has said the Government should make cost-of-living support “more targeted” for the vulnerable as he warned over food poverty.

Ken Murphy, chief executive of the supermarket giant, said he has seen positive signs of shopping behaviour in Tesco stores since energy bill support was handed out to UK households from October.

However, he suggested that improvements could still be made to financial support.

Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy
Tesco chief executive Ken Murphy (Ben Stevens/Parsons Media/PA)

Mr Murphy told the PA news agency: “It looks like the action by the Government has helped but I believe it can be more targeted in the form of who it helps, to help the vulnerable.

“There should be a case for more means testing with support.

“There is a certain responsibility that should be shared by businesses, government and communities to help those most at need.”

Mr Murphy said he “cannot predict” if food poverty will worsen but said Tesco is steadfast in its commitment to keeping prices affordable for all customers amid the uncertain backdrop.

It came as the retailer launched it first “reverse supermarket”, where shoppers can purchase food for donations for vulnerable people rather than for themselves.

Cost of living crisis
Members of the public interact with the ‘Give Back Express’ from Tesco, FareShare and the Trussell Trust (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

Tesco is working with charity partners FareShare and the Trussell Trust for the Give Back Express pop-up shop on Poland Street in central London over this weekend.

FareShare has forecast that it will redistribute more than 13,000 tonnes of food to people this winter as rampant energy bill rises weigh on households.

The Trussell Trust also confirmed that 320,000 people used a food bank for the first time between April to September this year and warned that demand in continuing to rise.

Tesco said this winter will be “increasingly challenging” for many families as it hailed support from customers and staff through food donations.

Mr Murphy said the retailer has witnessed increased pressure on its customers’ budgets over the past year, with more turning to value product ranges.

“We have seen many shoppers have been pricing down, which highlights the importance of having a range of pricing,” he said.

“We can’t control the future but I expect the demand for these lines will still be strong over the next 12 or 24 months.”

Cost of living crisis
The Kotadiya family in the ‘Give Back Express’ shop (Kieran Cleeves/PA)

Lindsay Boswell, FareShare chief executive, said: “The cost of living crisis is driving millions of people into food insecurity.

“At a time when food prices and energy bills are rising, the demand for food from FareShare has skyrocketed with 75%6 of our charities telling us they need access to more food.”

Emma Revie, chief executive at Trussell Trust said: “At a time when food banks are facing a tsunami of need created by the soaring cost of living, we would like to share a heartfelt thanks to Tesco for their ongoing commitment to helping the Trussell Trust provide people with access to essential items, while we work to create a future where everyone is free from hunger – for good.”

Mr Murphy added: “This winter will be increasingly challenging for many people facing food uncertainty, and food banks and frontline charities need our help more than ever before.

“We have been working with FareShare and the Trussell Trust for 10 years, and during this time our generous customers have helped donate over 100 million meals to communities across the UK, with Tesco topping up donations by 20%.

“Whether it’s at the Give Back Express, in your local store through our annual Food Collection, or via your Clubcard points online, even the smallest donation can make a real difference and help to spread a little more Christmas joy this year.”