A GOVERNMENT minister for food security must be appointed to help support the millions of households in the UK who are struggling to avoid hunger, a new campaign has demanded.
A report by End Hunger, a coalition of charities and faith groups working to tackle food poverty, states that the latest figures from the United Nations show that nearly three million people in the UK are now classed as severely “food insecure”, which means facing hunger on a daily basis. In the whole of Europe, the UN says, only Albania has higher levels of food insecurity.
The End Hunger campaign, supported by the Church of England, is demanding that a new cross-departmental Household Food Security Minister be appointed to tackle the worsening problem, which, it says, is so severe that it can no longer be left to the charities to deal with alone.
The UK last had a Minister for Food in the Second World War. The post contined throughout rationing, until it was ended in 1958, when it merged with the Minister for Agriculture.
The Bishop of Gloucester, the Rt Revd Rachel Treweek, in her introduction to the report A Menu to End Hunger, which was published on Thursday of last week, said that in her diocese, one foodbank alone had distributed about 1860 food parcels in the past year.
She said: “This is only the tip of the iceberg. We know that many more people are living on cheap food, much of it unhealthy, or skipping meals, because they are too ashamed to visit a foodbank. Whilst celebrating the work that churches and other voluntary groups are doing to respond to this urgent need, it is clear to me that Government and businesses could and should be doing more to reduce the need for foodbanks in the first place.”
The report makes a series of recommendations, including calling on the Government to recognise the problem of “holiday hunger” when parents whose children receive free school meals struggle to feed them during school holidays (News, 1 September).
The Government should provide holiday clubs that feed children at risk of going hungry, the campaign says.
It also calls on the Government to commit itself to ensuring that welfare reform does not leave people hungry, and to reviewing benefits sanctions. www.endhungeruk.org
Free school meals face threat, say Children’s Society. ANALYSIS from the Children’s Society suggests than one million children in poverty will not be entitled to free school meals under new universal-credit proposals, writes Paul Wilkinson.
Currently all families in receipt of the benefit are automatically entitled to free school meals, but the Government now plans to introduce means-testing. This, the Children’s Society says, could adversely affect up to one million children, and create a “cliff-edge”, at which many families would be better off taking a pay cut.
The charity calculates that once a family with one child passes the £7400 threshold, it needs £1124 a year more — the equivalent of working 2.4 hours more each week at the national Living Wage — to make up for the loss in free school meals.
The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said: “There are significant, proven benefits for children’s health, education, and their futures in making sure they have a healthy lunch every day, but at least one million children will miss out if this change is introduced.
“Continuing to provide free school meals for all children on universal credit would not only help vulnerable children, it would also prevent low-income parents being left worse off if they take on more hours or get a pay rise. Universal credit was designed to always make work pay, but these plans will undermine that very principle.
“If the Government wants to show it is truly committed to tackling the growing crises of inequality and child poverty, delivering free school meals for children in low-income working families is a crucial step.”
If the giving of free school meals for all children whose families claim universal credit is maintained, about two million children from poor and low-income families in England would benefit once roll-out is completed.
The Government’s consultation on free school meals under Universal Credit closes on 11 January 2018. The Society is asking supporters to submit responses to the consultation on its website at: www.childrenssociety.org.uk/fsm.