UK government lacks robust data on food poverty, says new report

By staff writers
January 30, 2015

The government has been asked by a cross-party group of MPs.to commission fresh research into why people use food banks

They also recommend more work on measuring the scale and extent of food poverty in the UK.

The move follows pressure from churches, anti-poverty groups and charities on the alarming growth of food banks across the country.

The Environment, Food and Rural Affairs select committee, in its latest report entitled (Food security: demand, consumption and waste), has pointed out that that despite a growing number of people relying on emergency food aid, government ministers – who have denied this has anything to do with its welfare cuts and restrictions hitting the poorest and most vulnerable – collect no robust data on what is happening and why.

Lord Freud, the welfare minister, declared only a few months ago that, "It is very hard to know why people go to them [foodbanks]."

The report, made available last week, says: "We recommend that DEFRA commission further research into why more people are using foodbanks to provide an evidence base to inform and enhance policy responses. We recommend that the Government collect objective and statistically robust data on the scale of household food insecurity, including through the use of questions in the food costs sections of the UKs living costs and food survey. It should also monitor trends over time so that the effectiveness of policies can be accurately gauged and any necessary changes made in response to evidence of need."

The report concludes: "Whilst approaches must be based on local requirements and driven by local communities, Defra should set up a task force to co-ordinate national work by charities, local authorities, retailers, food producers and manufacturers to establish an effective food redistribution network across the country. This should be a key remit of a Food Security Co-ordinator, who should also ensure that food and waste policies inter-link effectively."

While some government politicians have described foodbanks as a 'lifestyle choice', Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby is among those who have highlighted the reality of hunger and malnutrition in unequal Britain.

"Hunger stalks large parts of our country", said the head of the Church of England, commenting on a report and UK parliamentary discussion in December 2014.

During Lent last year, many Christians, church leaders, people of faith and those of no religious conviction but strong moral purpose took part in the End Hunger Fast campaign pushed into the public arena by Ekklesia associate the Rev Keith Hebden and others.

* Food security: demand, consumption and waste: http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/cm201415/cmselect/cmenvfru/703/...

* More on foodbanks and food poverty from Ekklesia: http://www.ekklesia.co.uk/foodbanks

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