Back in 2014 a panel of people came together to put out a report on food poverty impacting on ill health in Britain.
This was an All-Party Parliamentary Group Inquiry on Hunger and Food.
Any country’s government group might have set these lines of investigation, but the history which contributed to the dire straits of a high percentage of their citizens might have been very different.
- To understand the extent and geographical spread of hunger and food poverty in this country.
- To investigate the underlying causes of hunger and food poverty in this country
- To identify the circumstances behind the rising number of people requiring emergency food assistance in this country
- To understand the extent, nature and organisation of emergency food assistance schemes in this country
- To discover the food choices and other forms of support available to clients when
using emergency food assistance
- To investigate the source of emergency food assistance providers’ supplies –
how much is supplied by consumers and institutions?
- To consider the effectiveness of emergency food assistance in meeting immediate and long-term needs, and the possibility of these schemes becoming permanent features of the welfare state
- To examine the effectiveness and sustainability of our food model in providing universal access to healthy, affordable food in this country
- To consider approaches to improving household food security in this country
- To make recommendations.
Unicef reported in 2017 that 19% of children under 15 in the UK live with adults who struggle to buy food. In January 2019, a group of cross party MPs called on government to appoint a Minister of Hunger! The BBC reported children were so food obsessed they were found rooting through bins at school to find discarded apple cores! Parents arrived with their children at school saying they could not afford to feed their children.
It took a footballer, Marcus Rashford, to fight for the undernourished children of Britain, to overturn MPs decision not to provide free school meals during periods when schools were closed. Rashford also helped build a food resource which would assist parents to feed their children in his local area.
In Britain, our government introduced a rule under Covid restrictions whereby one could only buy alcohol if a full meal was ordered. This led to people meeting their friends to sit down to a meal, ordering drinks, then leaving the food for it to be thrown in the waste. All they wanted was the alcohol. They did not even ask to take home the food to help family or friends, or even to hand it in to a local food bank or distributor of meals to local people in need. This despicable behaviour has caused outrage in Britain.
Many people who have family members who suffer addictions to drugs such as alcohol, cigarettes, opioids, shopping – will know how the addict will spend money on their addiction rather than on food for themselves and their family. In Britain, this adds to the spiral of debt and destruction of family life leading to domestic violence and acts of self harm. Covid restrictions have heightened these mental health problems dramatically. More families are living in great distress and lack of ready food on the table. The above report demonstrates how dire this stress was building up to be to be over many years before Covid struck Britain.
Recently the BBC filmed some of the misery in Burnley, Lancashire:
Today, the BBC highlighted another area in Northern Britain smitten by long term poverty, Gateshead, Tyneside. There are many northern towns in the UK which have never recovered from bombing of their towns and cities in the last war. Funds have always seemed more profitably spent by the Treasury to allocate to southern Britain if more gain was perceived improving roads, housing and generally boosting employment and education chances. The northern areas did not hold much attraction in this respect. However, in order to gain favour with the northern voters, the current government has promised funds will favour the north, but not before the highest number of over 70s people have died from Covid in the UK. These deaths were preventable had funds been made available to northern councils in time to set up a proper response to Covid in their communities. Instead, hungry children have lost their grandparents and the grief of loss is adding to the pain of hunger.
The answer to this problem is the responsibility of all of us, across the globe. We should all realise we have the answer as long as we provide the infrastructure and philosophy to eradicate poverty and stop the relentless punishment and stigma in many societies simply for being born into a life which holds no safety net..