Emma Lewell-Buck MP explains why she is calling on the government – with support from End Hunger – to start measuring household food insecurity.
In November last year I introduced a Bill into the Commons to end UK hunger. On 26th October this year MPs will have a real opportunity to take action on the growing numbers of people going hungry in our country by supporting the second reading of my Food Insecurity Bill. This is the next stage needed to progress the Bill into law.
The Bill is straightforward. It asks that the Government measures and reports to Parliament annually the true scale of UK hunger. At present no such measure exists. We all know that what gets measured gets done and in the absence of any robust measurement in place, policy making to mitigate hunger will never be a reality.
My Bill is cost-neutral and simply asks that some new questions are inserted into an existing nationwide survey, the Living Costs and Food Survey. They replace current, redundant questions regarding fruit and vegetables that people grow in their own gardens or allotments. My Bill details specific new questions such as “In the last 12 months, were you ever hungry, but didn’t eat, because there wasn’t enough money for food?”
The United Nations estimates that over eight million people in the UK are food insecure. UNICEF estimates that 10% of children in the UK are living in households affected by severe food insecurity. There are over 2000 food banks in operation that we know of , with rising levels of hospital admissions due to malnutrition costing the NHS £12bn per year. The cost of living is outstripping average wages, there are record levels of in work poverty. With warnings that Brexit will push up food prices and continued punitive welfare reform changes leading to the Institute for Fiscal Studies predicting further rises in child poverty levels over the next three years, it is very clear that the time for this Bill is now, we need new questions for new times.
Even given these stark figures, the true picture is likely to be far worse as we don’t know what the true scale of hunger is. What about those who don’t go to their local foodbanks, who don’t visit their local GP, who don’t ask for help either out of embarrassment, pride or simply not knowing where to go for assistance. What about the one million lonely pensioners starving in their homes, as reported by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger? They are the UK’s hidden hungry.
77% of adults agree that the Government should measure hunger. The Bill is supported by over 20 national organisations and by over 100 MPs across the House. Previously, cross-party reports from the Hunger APPG and the Environment and Rural Affairs Select Committee have also advocated measurement of hunger.
Only the Government is against the Bill. It remains a total and prolonged abdication of their duty that they have left it to faith groups and charities to fill the yawning gap left by the state, and that food banks are becoming a permanent part of our welfare state.
The simple fact is that no one should be going to bed hungry and waking up hungry in 21st Century Britain. It is heart-breaking that so many do.