Let’s set the scene: a family of 4, with 2 children who are slightly undernourished and 2 parents who are skipping meals to make sure their children are getting something for dinner and relying on schools meals to feed them during the day. If you had to guess where would you predict this family was living? Sub-Saharan Africa? South Asia? Well no, they could be living right next door to you.
In 2014 The Trussell Trust reported that 566,146 more individuals received 3 day emergency food aid across the UK compared to the year before. When considering that the year before that the Trussell Trust had already seen an increase of almost 800,000 and that Trussell Trust is just one among hundreds of independent Food Banks across the UK – the food poverty situation in the UK is bleak and getting worse.
Food poverty is generally associated with developing countries, huge natural disasters and humanitarian aid, when in fact around 4 million people in the UK are living in food poverty.
Last year I completed a graduate course in Food Security and Development and like many on my course focused my attention, for the majority of the year, on developing countries and the state of food poverty. But, then it dawned on me, how could I start thinking about how I as an individual could be a part of tackling this international issue if I actually knew very little about what was going on at home.
With this in mind, I dedicated my dissertation and entire summer to finding out more about the state of food poverty right here in the UK. I will admit, despite studying the topic and having seen its effects first hand whilst volunteering with ICS in both Nepal and South Africa, I was shocked. Not only did I read lots of journals, news articles, government policy papers but I went out and visited a number of Food Banks across the country and spoke to volunteers and food parcel recipients to find out more about the actual state of food poverty.
It was clear from my research that despite the huge, and potentially an increasing, need for the services of Food Banks, the government rhetoric was that there was not a need to be addressed. I felt that there was the argument that the UK is able to import or grow enough food to feed the population and therefore what was the issue? But there was, and still is a huge issue.
On 8th December 2014 an All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty in Britain was released which looked to produce evidence on the extent and causes of hunger in Britain, the scope of provision to alleviate it and a comparison with other Western countries. Some of the findings include:
We should be a Zero Hunger Britain in which everybody in this country has the resources, abilities and facilities to purchase, prepare and cook fresh, healthy and affordable food, no matter where they live.
The movement needs to evolve to deal with both the symptoms as well as the causes of hunger – causes include the cost of housing, food and fuel.
Greater overall guidance and drive is required, otherwise dealing with the causes of hunger will continue to take a back seat.
It is clear that changes need to be made to UK welfare in order for food poverty to be tackled in the UK. 2015 is our year to be taking some of the power back to be tackling this issue. With the General Election on the 7th of May, I will certainly be looking at each of the parties Welfare promises to ensure that the cost of housing and fuel are being considered so that we do not see a rise of another 800,000 people being forced to use Food Banks in the next 2 years.
For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.