If we measure it we can mend it! Imogen Richmond-Bishop of Sustain has news of a significant success for End Hunger UK.

At a meeting on 25 February 2019, attended by various organisations who are members of the End Hunger UK campaign, the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) confirmed that it was planning to include household food insecurity measurement questions in its annual Food and Resources Survey starting in April 2019.

This is a major campaign win for End Hunger UK and for its members who been calling on Government to measure household food insecurity for years.

`What exactly is happening?

“It is excellent and right that a measure of food insecurity is going into the Family Resources Survey. It is the key survey for understanding financial and material well-being in the UK, and food insecurity is a critical part of understanding these.”
(Dr Rachel Loopstra, Lecturer in Nutrition, King’s College London)

 The Food and Resources Survey is an annual survey carried out by the DWP that looks at income, housing tenure, caring needs, disability, and pension participation. The survey covers all four nations of the UK with a representative sample of 20,000 households and has been continuously collecting data since 1994. The first datasets on household food insecurity will be available by March 2021.

The 10 questions that will be asked in order to ascertain whether an individual is food insecure will be taken from the US Department of Agriculture’s survey.

Why is measurement so important?

“It has been all too easy for politicians to dismiss data painstakingly provided so far by academics and voluntary groups such as the Independent Food Aid Network, resulting in denial, prevarication and unacceptable delays in addressing the shocking fact that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK go hungry each year. Better data will shine the spotlight on the extent and causes of food poverty, prompting the requirement for living wages, sufficient welfare payments, and decent social services that guarantee that all vulnerable people can eat well.”
(Kath Dalmeny, CEO of the Sustain Alliance)

This data will help Government and civil society have a clearer picture of the scale of household food insecurity in the UK, as well as identify the groups that are the most affected.

For example the recent household food insecurity figures from Scotland showed that 21% of single parents experienced food insecurity compared with 8% of the general population. Then when we look at a recent Equalities and Human Rights Commission cumulative impact assessment which found that lone parents, of whom 90% are women, lost on average one fifth of their income, we can see why lone parents are most at risk. This data on households suffering from food insecurity has therefore helped us better understand the impacts of broader changes within policy, especially those related to the tax and welfare system.

What next?

“Our task now is to ensure that Government not only ‘counts the number of people going hungry’ in this country, but takes responsibility for reducing the numbers of people who haven’t got enough money to feed themselves adequately.  This is a great first step, but our job won’t be complete until everyone has access to good food, and no one needs to go to bed hungry in the UK.”
(Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty and Chair of the End Hunger UK board)

Measuring household food insecurity is a first vital step towards being able to hold decision-makers to account for their actions to uphold or thwart our fundamental right to be able to enjoy an adequate supply of fresh, healthy and affordable food.

With the data provided by these new FRS questions, the UK Government will be able to better create policy to tackle food insecurity as well as to monitor its progress towards reducing food insecurity, as it has pledged to do so through the Sustainable Development Goals as well as through its commitments to international standards such the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural rights that upholds the right to food and to an adequate standard of living for all.

The data will also allow civil society to hold the Government to account over any potential increase in the number of people in household food insecurity and therefore a regression in people’s living standards.

For example, the roll-out of Universal Credit has long been identified, by both civil society and most recently by the DWP secretary Amber Rudd herself, as a key cause of the rise in emergency food aid use. If we had national figures on household food insecurity from before and after the roll out of Universal Credit, we would be better able to evidence these claims.

Thank you to all End Hunger UK supporters who have emailed their MPs asking them to sign up to Emma Lewell Buck MP’s bill on Household Food Insecurity Measurement.
By keeping up pressure on politicians and keeping the need for measurement in the public discourse you have helped us win this key campaign ask!

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