The government’s overall objective should be simple: zero hunger

Food poverty is an extreme example of what happens when the welfare system breaks down.

Food poverty is an extreme example of what happens when the welfare system breaks down

Last month the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, published its annual data, including figures for London. The results were alarming, but sadly, not surprising.

In 2013/14 the organisation recorded 95,639 visitors to its 39 food banks in the capital – a 114 per cent increase on the previous year. The figures only served to confirm what we already suspected – that in London and the rest of the UK, despite the fledgling economic recovery, the increase in food poverty is showing no sign of slowing down.

With this latest data in mind, this week I submitted evidence to the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty in Britain. Co-chaired by Frank Field MP, the outcome of this investigation should inform policies of all main parties, but is likely to make unwelcome reading for any politician wanting to ignore the impact of the current government’s approach to welfare.

It is likely that a large proportion of the submissions to the inquiry will agree that food poverty, and the associated proliferation of food bank use, is an extreme example of what happens when the welfare system breaks down.

Trussell Trust data shows that a quarter of food bank users cited benefit delays as the reason they were forced to resort to emergency food aid. In many cases these are people who even this government believes are entitled to social security payments, but failures within the system are increasingly causing delays in processing claims and denying people access to funds.

Equally, the current sanctions regime often results in unfair and seemingly arbitrary withdrawals of social security payments that can leave claimants with no income whatsoever, often for prolonged periods of time. Resolving the systemic problems with the processing of benefits is vital and should be a priority for any political party serious about fighting food poverty.

With Brazil looking like a good bet for World Cup victory in their home nation, it seems fitting that we can also learn lessons from the Brazilian approach to food poverty. Over 10 years ago, the Brazilian government designed the Fome Zero (‘Zero Hunger’) programme under the leadership of José Graziano da Silva, who is now director-general of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation. A key aspect of the Brazilian programme was a commitment to ensure that all children should have three meals a day.

Our government would do well to learn lessons here, for food poverty and child hunger is a developed world problem too. In London, it is estimated that 74,000 children regularly go to bed hungry and for around 82,000 children in London their school lunch is the biggest meal of the day, suggesting they do not get the food they need at home.

A child’s right to food should be so undeniable that it should not need to be defined as a policy goal in the UK.

Yet, the growth of hunger and food poverty is most shocking with vulnerable groups such as children. Hunger amongst school age children affects their concentration and attainment in school. It exacerbates the problem of childhood obesity, as many children and parents turn to unhealthy foods that are cheaper on a low budget. Food poverty among children is therefore both a social mobility and a health problem.

Ultimately, driving up pay and limiting the impact of benefit changes are the key to addressing the shameful levels of child hunger. Other measures – breakfasts, lunches, after school and holiday provision – need to be considered with an extension of Free School Meals to all primary school children a priority with 1.2 million children living in poverty currently not receiving free school meals.

In the face of the growing levels of food poverty, the government’s overall objective should be ‘Zero Hunger’ – where everyone has access to an adequate amount of healthy food and where no one goes hungry. However, a starting point has to be ensuring that our children are fed and have access to decent food. At the very least – let them eat lunch.

Fiona Twycross is the London Assembly Labour Group fire spokesperson

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26 Responses to “The government’s overall objective should be simple: zero hunger”

  1. Leon Wolfeson

    “Co-chaired by Frank Field MP”

    Why did you waste your time?

  2. LB

    Yep. Frank’s big idea is to steal money from people’s savings so he can spend it.

    The state has pissed away all pension contributions. All gone as you know.

    4 trillion over the last 20 years spent on fighting poverty, and the end result is people starving – allegedly.

    And this is just the start, its going to get worse.

    Welfare state – bankrupt.

  3. treborc1

    F*ck you can talk some bloody crap…

  4. LB

    So which bit?

    20 years at 200 bn a year welfare budget. Why shouldn’t we expect that sort of spend on the “war on poverty and hunger” to have fixed it for good?

  5. robertcp

    That people are hungry in a rich country like the UK is a disgrace.

  6. Guest

    Frank, thanks for your admission of your plan.
    Keep saying you’re out to murder people, and your denial of what’s clearly happening, that you say people should have been murdered earlier because it’s cheaper…it’s all about murder with you, Frank.

    Keep saying you’ll kill more. As you say British workers – I will kill them. Over and Over.

  7. Guest

    Whereas your solution of killing people fixes them for good, thanks for that view into your mindset. Those evil working poor, pensioners and disabled people, etc. (And a tiny amount for the jobless).

  8. Leon Wolfeson

    He spews the same crap on every post, you notice. Over and over. The mods don’t care.
    One of the signs this isn’t a left-wing place at all.

  9. Leon Wolfeson

    We’re a rich country? No, we have rich people, there’s a sharp difference.

  10. MisterVimes

    That this is happening in UK2014 is a bloody disgrace. We’re going backwards.

  11. robertcp

    The UK has a high per capita income might be a better way of putting it.

  12. Leon Wolfeson

    I see that as misleading. GDP(PPP) is a pretty poor measure of, for instance, how able people are to afford food, housing and shelter.

  13. robertcp

    Who cares? The important point is that people in this country are struggling to pay for necessities like food and shelter and the money exists to do something about it.

  14. littleoddsandpieces

    My blogs on how all could be fed is hopefully some day going to be read by Labour in plenty of time before next year’s general election. This would give them far more than the paltry few points ahead in the polls and a landslide victory in 2015.

    There are many people going to be left with nil money in old age forever as well by the Pension Bill and even worse by the Flat Rate (single tier) pension that is not more, but less or nothing at all for life

  15. Leon Wolfeson

    But that would mean taxing capital, and having some actual social justice, which isn’t going to happen until we ditch FPTP.

  16. robertcp

    I agree with PR but even AV was too much for the British electorate apparently.

  17. Leon Wolfeson

    …AV is a step back, if anything. It wasn’t supported by a lot of people, like myself, who support PR.

  18. robertcp

    Anything is better than FPTP, which we are now stuck with for my lifetime at least.

  19. Leon Wolfeson

    No, it’s not. A system which can be less fair and has other drawbacks is NOT a good one to replace FPTP.

    And that’s defeatism and indeed obstructionism from my perspective.

  20. robertcp

    I look forward to PR for House of Commons elections!

  21. Leon Wolfeson

    That’s not what you just said…

  22. robertcp

    I agree with PR but it is not going to happen for General Elections in my opinion. I hope that I am wrong.

  23. Frank

    This is stupid

    If you start giving things away for free of course demand will rise

    Food banks open. They give food away for free. Suddenly the demand for food banks increases

    Its not rocket science.

  24. Tezza

    Leon you’re the one who spews the crap round here

  25. Guest

    Of course you see anything other than your anti-pension, genocidal spam as crap, Lord Blagger.

  26. Leon Wolfeson

    Keep denying poverty.
    You can’t walk in and claim.

    What sort of body count would be proof for you? In millions?

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