Hungry for Change - Fabian Commission's report on food poverty

Yesterday was released Hungry for Change, the final report of the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty.

Drawing on the testimony of people facing household food insecurity, the final report documents multiple cases of parents – usually mothers – going hungry to feed their children or having to prioritise calories over nutritious food to afford their weekly food shop. The report comments that “Many people are feeling a deep sense of anxiety from the struggle to manage serious squeezes in household budgets that arises from the cost of living rising faster than income.”

The report asks how a fairer food system can be built that works better for people on low incomes. Sustainable Food Cities applauds its call for immediate action by the UK and devolved governments, regulators and local authorities.

The report calls for action on incomes, rather than prices. Sustainable Food Cities’ Beyond the Food Bank campaign works with cities to tackle the root causes of food poverty. Local councils can maximise family incomes by safeguarding and extending publicly-funded nutrition programmes such as Healthy Start vouchers for new parents, free school meals and meals on wheels to reach all eligible participants – some of the most vulnerable and isolated people in our society. These programmes put real money into the pockets of those who need it most. Healthy Start vouchers, for example, can boost young families’ food budgets by 14-25% per week. Receiving free school meals saves parents £400 per year.

Hungry for Change also highlights the worrying trend to rely on the voluntary sector to address food poverty. In addition, cuts to local council funding have resulted in reduction or elimination of some of the key supports for those on low incomes. There are substantial gaps in the safety net, amounting to a postcode lottery for families living below the poverty line:

  • More than a fifth of UK workers earn less than the Living Wage
  • • Meals on Wheels service has been cut in 21 of 44 Sustainable Food Cities
  • • 1.5 million children whose parents are in low wage work are not eligible for Free School Meals
  • • 1 in 4 eligible families are not receiving Healthy Start vouchers

“While we have an obligation to support individuals in crisis, the problem of food poverty won’t be solved unless we take a coordinated approach to reduce inequality, preserve a strong safety net and build resilient communities where good food is available to all,” said Hannah Laurison, coordinator of Sustainable Food Cities’ food poverty campaign.

Sustainable Food Cities will work with our partners to follow through on many of the recommendations in today’s report by the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, and the earlier report of the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty in Britain, championed by Frank Field MP. Specifically, we are currently working with Oxfam, the Food Foundation and others to plan a meeting of researchers, policy makers and third sector organisations to carry forward the recommendation that household food insecurity in the UK be monitored and used to determine the impact of policy decisions. Together with the food bank provider Trussell Trust and Church Action on Poverty, we are also organising a series of regional meetings on the right to food this autumn (in London, Durham, Manchester, Birmingham and Sheffield). It is our intention that these meetings feed into the development of a national policy campaign to end food poverty, supported by several major national organisations.

Read Hungry for Change report

Find out more about Beyond the Food Bank campaign

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