A Food Standards Agency report finds most UK people want the government to prevent hunger, and that food insecurity estimates are probably lower than the real picture.
Coinciding with the report, comedian Lenny Henry highlighted the UK’s growing need for food banks while promoting the annual televised national charity fundraiser Red Nose Day.
He told Jools Holland on the Later… show last night, “I went to Uganda with [director and Red Nose Day founder] Richard Curtis and we were at a food bank. I said, ‘this is extraordinary, and we’ll never have this in Britain.’
“Here we are all those years later. We have kids on the breadline who are starving.
“Food charity FareShare is one of the projects that’s very, very close to our hearts, and [England footballer] Marcus Rashford’s.
“We want to say, we stand with you at FareShare and we’re going to continue supporting you into the future.”
The public wants the government ensure well-paid jobs are available to all
Lenny Henry explained he had visited FareShare in 2019, but that demand for foodbanks had “skyrocketed” by 50 per cent in the last year.
The new Food Standards Agency (FSA) report, Food in a Pandemic, was co-authored by Demos.
Rose Lasko-Skinner, Senior Researcher at Demos and co-author of the report, said, “Our research highlights an unprecedented rise in food insecurity caused by new physical and financial barriers to buying food as a result of the pandemic.”
The findings show the public wants the government to help feed those without the means to do so. And that it supports preventative actions for food insecurity, such as making sure well-paid jobs are available to all.
Just under two thirds, or 63 per cent, agreed it is the government’s responsibility to make sure no-one goes hungry.
The Trussell Trust reported an 89% increase in food parcels handed out in April 2020, compared to April of previous year. Half the families that requested food in April had never used a food bank before.
“School meals should be free for all students so poor students are not stigmatised”
The Independent Food Network, that represents food banks not affiliated with the Trussell Trust, reported an almost 300% increase in demand during May 2020.
This reinforced the findings of monthly tracking data published by the FSA.
Qualitative research by the FSA found, “Most of the participants regularly skipping meals, or unable to feed regular meals to their children, had not used [food banks].” This means the dramatic increase in new food bank users is likely to underestimate the true level of food insecurity.
The report found there is strong public support for a child’s right to healthy food, with 89 per cent saying, “Every child has the right to have a healthy meal at least once a day.” Seventy-five per cent said, “The government must step in for children whose parents are unable to feed them.”
And 63 per cent said, “it is the government’s responsibility to make sure no-one goes hungry.”
Almost 70 per cent of respondents support children receiving free school meals during holidays throughout the pandemic and 58 per cent support free school meals during the holidays even beyond the pandemic.
“The government should subsidise healthy food, in other words provide funding to make it cheaper”
Fifty-one per cent said, “school meals should be free for all students so poor students are not stigmatised”
Sixty-five per cent said, “The two people who create the child are responsible for looking after it however the government should provide well paid jobs for all.”
FSA research found food insecurity has been driven by income loss, exacerbating pre-existing food insecurity, and a lack of access to affordable food during lockdown.
Sixty per cent of people said, “the government should subsidise healthy food, in other words provide funding to make it cheaper.”
Most people – eight in 10 – also want the UK to retain its food quality standards, even if food is more expensive. Similarly, most people want current animal welfare standards maintained, even if it raises costs, making UK products less competitive.
The report was commissioned by the FSA and produced by Demos as part of Renew Normal: The People’s Commission on Life after Covid.
The research included: a nationally representative survey of 10,069 UK adults, a nationally representative online deliberative method called Polis with 1,006 UK respondents, a series of four deliberative workshops, and an open access survey of 911 adults.
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