MPs call for minister for hunger

10 Jan 19

MPs have today called for a minister for hunger to tackle the high levels of food insecurity in the UK.

Food insecurity in the UK was “significant and growing” with “levels are among the worst in Europe, especially for children”, the Environmental Audit Committee said today.

This is despite the UK’s pledge to eliminate hunger by 2030, as part of its committment to the UN-backed Sustainable Development Goals.

Nearly one in five (19%) of children under 15 live with an adult who is moderately or severely food insecure, Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK found.

Chair of the committee Mary Creagh said this was a “scandal which cannot be allowed to continue”.

“The combination of high living costs, stagnating wages and often, the rollout of universal credit and the wider benefits system, means that levels of hunger in Britain are some of the highest across Europe.”

The MPs also said the government was “turning a blind eye to UK hunger [as shown by] its lack of progress in measuring and acting on hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the UK”.

A hunger minister would ensure cross-departmental action to tackle food insecurity, the committee said.

“Instead of seeing hunger as an issue abroad, the government’s New Year resolution should be one of taking urgent action at home to tackle hunger and malnutrition,” Creagh said.

“This can only be addressed by setting clear UK-wide targets and by appointing a minister for hunger to deliver them.”

Evidence gathered by the committee found that food insecurity can lead both to malnutrition and obesity, with people forced to rely on the very cheapest food, which are often nutrient-poor but calorie-rich.

The government’s current measures to tackle obesity – such as its Obesity Strategy – failed to mention the issue of food insecurity, the report said. The government largely sees hunger “as overseas issues”, it added, with only the Department for International Development mentioning hunger in its single departmental plan.

Unless “significant and co-ordinated” action is taken, the UK is unlikely to meet SDG to eliminate hunger – the second goal – the report said.

The UK, along with 192 other UN member states, adopted the Agenda for Sustainable Development in 2015, which includes 17 SDGs to be met by 2030.

The second goal, ‘zero hunger’, aims to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture”.

The International Development Committee has launched an inquiry on the government’s progress towards meeting the SDGs.

Read PF International’s article on the world’s progress on the SDGs here.

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