Fabian Commission condemns Cameron’s indifference to growing food poverty

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Poverty, and particularly child poverty, is increasing. Welfare cuts, austerity measures and low wages have pushed hundreds of thousands, including more than 300,000 children, below the poverty line since 2012, despite Tory claims to the contrary, according to the New Policy Institute (NPI) thinktank, who undertook a study after the government refused to bring forward the publication of official data which would have shown the impact on poverty figures of the major welfare reforms introduced in 2013, and enabled the coalition’s record to be properly scrutinised before the election.

The Fabian Society has accused the Government of lacking a strategy to combat food poverty and said proposed tax-credit cuts could become an even bigger driver of poverty and food insecurity than low wages. A year-long independent food and poverty commission by the Fabian Society found the Government lacks any strategy for addressing hunger in the UK, making a mockery of the prime minster’s party conference pledge to lead “an all-out assault on poverty” earlier this month.

The Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty has brought together experts, as well as those experiencing poverty, to look at the roles of government, civil society and the food industry in increasing the availability and accessibility of sustainable, nutritious food.

The final report of the Fabian Commmission on Food and Poverty is due to be launched later today.

The Commission is chaired by Geoff Tansey, a renowned writer, consultant and Trustee of the Food Ethics Council. The Commission also includes leading representatives from across civil society, trade unions, academia and the food industry.

Food is becoming more and more expensive, and falling real incomes make healthy, nutritious diets less affordable. Yet food plays a wider role in society than nutrition. We use it to celebrate family events, milestones, rites of passage, festivals, to socialise with, and to express ourselves. Food poverty also means that people often experience social exclusion as well as hunger.

Yet only last week, David Cameron insisted at Prime Minister’s Questions: “I do not want anyone in our country to have to rely on food banks.”

Whilst the chair of the commission, Geoff Tansey, acknowledged Cameron’s comments, he said: “But for food – people’s most basic need – he currently has no means of achieving this aim and no plan to deliver a reduction in food banks, let alone tackle the other links between food and poverty.

“The commission has even found that the Government has no count of the number of people who currently lack secure access to nutritious, affordable food.”

A recent NHS statistics release show that 7,366 people were admitted to hospital with a primary or secondary diagnosis of malnutrition between August 2014 and July this year, compared with 4,883 cases in the same period from 2010 to 2011 – a rise of more than 50 per cent in just four years. Cases of other diseases rife in the Victorian era including scurvy (an illness arising through a lack of vitamin C), scarlet fever, cholera and whooping cough have also increased since 2010.

Chris Mould, chairman of the Trussell Trust, which runs a nationwide network of foodbanks, said they saw “tens of thousands of people who have been going hungry, missing meals and cutting back on the quality of the food they buy”. 

“We meet families from across the UK struggling to put enough food on the table and, at the extreme end, you get people who are malnourished,” he said. “We often see parents who are going without food so that they can feed their children, and these parents often struggle to afford enough nutritious food for their children, too. We don’t think anyone should have to go hungry in the UK, which is why we’re working to engage the public, other charities and politicians across parties to find solutions to the underlying causes of food poverty.”

The Mirror revealed on Monday how food bank volunteers will feed hundreds more hungry children this week:  Children from deprived families will go without free school meals during half term, leaving their hard-up parents unable to afford an additional meal every day.

The desperate reliance on food banks was one of the problems investigated by the panel, during its fact-finding tour interviewing food producers, charities and those living on the breadline.

Mr Tansey has warned it was “not enough to ensure people don’t go hungry. Food banks are just the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger problem.

“We need to make sure no-one lives in fear of not being able to feed themselves or their family, and to break the bigger links between food and poverty and their effect on people’s health, the environment and working conditions.”

The Fabian Society wants an end to food banks by 2020. Its report also calls for a tax on sugary drinks to see if the higher price cuts demand for unhealthy food, appointing a minister charged with eliminating household food insecurity and launching “food access plans” so people find it easier to buy “affordable, nutritious food”.

The commission’s report says: “We need to recognise that food banks and charitable food providers are not solutions to household food insecurity, they are symptoms of society’s failure to ensure everybody is sustainably well-fed.”

The report also notes that many people who are too poor to afford food do not use food banks for fear of the stigma of being labelled.

The report comes just two months after the children’s commissioner issued a report warning that the government’s continued austerity programme, especially the welfare reforms, does not conform to the standards of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which protects children from the adverse effects of government economic measures.

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7 thoughts on “Fabian Commission condemns Cameron’s indifference to growing food poverty

  1. Reblogged this on wgrovedotnet and commented:
    Although this is another excellent article by Kitty S. Jones, which many of us will be grateful for, it is also a horrific indictment of this governments policies against the poorest, working and not, whichever the case may be.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m 60 years old, and in Newcastle where my family lived, we knew poverty. A mattress on the bare wooden floor, with hand me down linen sheets and granddad’s trench coat for the three kids. A lady down the road would invite us to play in her yard and “treated” us to meat paste sandwiches while my father looked for work and mum cleaned house for a rich family in the town up the hill once a week. Mum always had porridge for us every morning and rotten bananas, sugar, or jam for sandwiches most days for supper. Then my Father found work at a factory down south east and we moved down. We had food every day. Things just got better over the years for so many who had lived in poverty and the past was forgotten. 55 years later and we are back where we started all those years ago. I could weep to think that children born 50 years later are facing the same tragic circumstances I knew when I was a child. How is it even possible for a nation to regress to a time past which so many have striven to eliminate? In April next year I will have my ESA taken from me and I will be forced to live on a small private pension earned after 38 years of working all hours I could on poor wages and yet, I will be better off than many people working with children. How is this possible? I worked understanding that my taxes paid for people who could not get a job and mums receiving child allowance and helped the sick and disabled. I never questioned it or resented it because I had known the consequences of joblessness and I held no grudge. Why did so many people turn their back on those less fortunate than them in May? Were they really so heartless as to begrudge the feared taxes of a Labour government, that they were prepared to consign all those who did not have their good fortune to a mere existence? It would appear so. Now they too, will suffer the consequences of their choice unless people better than they, can reverse the train wreck that is Tory policy on “handouts”. Not much fun is it, now that it is their turn to suffer? Next time round, given a better understanding of the Tory Agenda, these people might spare a thought for ALL of society, not just their own self serving interests. No child should go hungry in the 7th largest economy in the world.

    Like

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