Richard Walker, managing director of Iceland supermarket, hit out at the rising number of food banks in the UK despite Britain’s status as one of G7 nations.
Speaking on BBC Question Time on Thursday night, Walker was addressing the impact the upcoming £20 a week cut to universal credit which is expected to plunge thousands into poverty.
He said there was already an “alarming” rise in food banks, and pointed out: “There’s now more food banks than branches of McDonald’s in this country.
“We’re a G7 country, how can that be right?”
Being a G7 nation means being among the most advanced democracies in the world – yet 23% of the British population were living in poverty by the end of 2020 according to the Big Issue.
In February 2021, there were more than 2,200 food banks in the UK according to research shared by Parliament, while there are approximately 1,300 McDonald’s restaurants in Britain, according to the international chain.
Touching back on the universal credit cuts, Walker concluded: “I think this is the wrong timing and I don’t think it’s fair.”
“There’s now more food banks than branches of McDonald’s in this country.”
Retail chief @icelandrichard says cutting universal credit will be “a choice between heating and eating” for many people. #bbcqtpic.twitter.com/oo2ihsJrAt
— BBC Question Time (@bbcquestiontime) September 23, 2021
He continued: “I always look at this through the lens of our customers.
“We have 1,000 shops around the UK, and five million customers per week, and many of those are from the poorest communities in the UK.
“Some of our customers may rely on benefits to feed their family – some of our customers may only have £25 a week to spend on food.
“So, in that context, you can understand how this removal of the £20 credit might affect them.”
Although Iceland is one of Britain’s cheapest supermarkets, Walker still predicted there would be inflation in food prices across the country.
He said the universal credit cuts were therefore “coming at just the wrong time”.
Walker concluded: “For some people this is a choice between heating and eating. It really is that serious.”
This article originally appeared on HuffPost UK and has been updated.