Within its new report, the Environmental Audit Committee calls on the Government to appoint a minister for hunger to ensure cross-departmental understanding and action on food insecurity. It says that the minister must analyse the scale, causes and impacts, implement strategies for improvement and monitor progress.
Food insecurity is defined as having ‘limited access to food due to lack of money or other resources’.
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According to the Committee, food insecurity is ‘significant’ and growing in the UK, with levels among the worst in Europe, especially for children. It claims that nearly one in five children under 15 are living in a food insecure home.
It says that the increase is linked to rising living costs and stagnating wages.
The report, ‘Hunger, Malnutrition and Food Insecurity in the UK’, focuses on the Government’s commitment to deliver UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: zero hunger, which it accuses the Government of failing to recognise and respond to.
It says that the Government should consider food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition and obesity in parallel in the UK as they are often co-located and correlated.
During evidence sessions, the Committee heard how food insecurity can lead to both malnutrition and obesity as people are forced to reply on the cheapest foods, which are often nutrient-poor, but calorie-rich.
However, it says that the Government’s Obesity Strategy makes no mention of food insecurity and the only department to address hunger in its Single Departmental Plan (SPD) is the Department for international Development.
Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Labour MP Mary Creagh, said, ‘Many of us are still recovering from Christmas excess, but the sad fact is that more children are growing up in homes where parents don’t have enough money to put food on the table.
‘The combination of high living costs, stagnating wages and often, the rollout of Universal Credit and the wider benefits system, means that levels of hunger in Britain are some of the highest across Europe. We found that nearly one in five children under 15 are living in a food insecure home – a scandal which cannot be allowed to continue.
‘Instead of seeing hunger as an issue abroad, the Government’s New Year resolution should be one of taking urgent action at home to tackle hunger and malnutrition. This can only be addressed by setting clear UK-wide targets and by appointing a minister for hunger to deliver them.’
A Government spokesperson said, ‘Household incomes have never been higher and the number of children living in workless households is at a record low, but we know there’s more to do ensure that every family has access to nutritious, healthy food.
'We already provide support through free school meals and our Healthy Start Vouchers, while we spend £90 billion a year on working-age welfare and will be spending £28 billion more by 2022 than we do now.'