The UK government should consult on how a Right to Food could be introduced in England, according to a new report. And a Minister for Food Security should be appointed.
The House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee produced the report, Covid-19 and the issues of security in food supply. It estimates 5.9 million adults in the UK experienced food poverty in the six months to February this year and 1.7 million children live in households that are food insecure.
Almost 1 in 10 households have, during the two most recent national lockdowns, experienced food poverty.
The report quotes Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation saying, “Had the right to food been in legislation before the pandemic, we wouldn’t be in the situation with such high levels of unmet need.”
In the report, the British Dietetic Association said, “The adoption of a legally enshrined Right to Food will be a key means of ensuring all parts of government address the causes of food insecurity and hunger.”
The committee says, “We therefore recommend that the government consult on how a Right to Food could be implemented in England as part of its White Paper following the publication of the National Food Strategy.
“We have a duty to ensure that access to enough nutritious food is a fundamental right for everyone in the UK”
“We appreciate that the right to daily nutritious food as part of a national food strategy will need to consider the need for people to have food security along with other essential needs.”
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said, “We have a duty to ensure that access to enough nutritious food is a fundamental right for everyone in the UK, which is why, for the second time in a year, our committee urges the government to appoint a new minister specifically to address food security.”
Steps toward creating the Right to Food in Scotland are already underway. And the UN Rapporteur on the Right to Food Michael Fakhri has recently presented his first findings to the United Nations, urging all countries to adopt the Right the Food ahead of the first UN Food Systems Summit this year.
The committee found proper data is lacking and this should be addressed with annual reports on food security under the Agriculture Act. A 2020 Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment House of Lords Committee report found that the government failed to “routinely collect data on levels of food insecurity”.
The new report says hospitality has seen revenues decline by over £72 billion and some suppliers have lost up to 100 per cent of their trade. Those who supply the hospitality sector have not received the same level of support as those they supply.
If the supply chain collapses the government support to the hospitality sector will have been wasted. So, financial support should be urgently provided during the period of reopening.
The government has a responsibility to support businesses through the food supply chain
The report notes supermarkets have seen increased spending during the pandemic. It recommends the government publicly asks them to lower minimum spends and remove delivery charges for customers who are at an increased risk of severe disease from Covid-19.
Neil Parish added, “The Government must now learn lessons from the pandemic, using the teething problems it encountered in distributing food to ensure that, in normal times, disadvantaged groups, such as those without internet access, do not slip between the cracks.
“It also has a responsibility to support businesses right the way through the food supply chain. As hospitality opens up from next Monday, additional financial support must be provided to its suppliers, else the funding rightly given to pubs, restaurants and cafes to get them through the lockdown will be wasted.”