I believe the existence of food poverty in this country is a scandal. There are children going to bed that are hungry because their families cannot afford to buy food.

Food poverty is not a food problem, it is a poverty problem. I believe that more action is needed to tackle the causes of poverty to ensure that everyone has access to sufficient and nutritious food.

Before the COVID-19 pandemic, levels of food insecurity in the UK were already amongst the highest in Europe and, with incomes taking a hard hit in the past year, more people than ever are being pushed into food insecurity. I am aware of figures from the Social Market Foundation showing that 1.7 million children were classified as facing very low food security in 2020, and from the Trussell Trust and the Independent Food Aid Network showing that there have been sharp increases in people turning to food banks for support.

I do not believe that we should be comfortable with this in a country that, despite current financial strains, has the fifth largest economy in the world.

The Government states that it recognises the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights which includes a right to food and that it remains committed to fulfilling its obligations in this respect.

I welcome money that the Government has provided to emergency food distribution organisations. However, I do not believe that this is sufficient to tackle a problem that must be addressed at its roots.

I am concerned that our social security net is not strong enough and that there is evidence to suggest that Universal Credit is contributing to increased food bank use, such as analysis by the Trussell Trust. I therefore believe that the Government should reverse its decision to remove the £20 uplift to Universal Credit to ensure that no one is left struggling in food insecurity.

Likewise, it is vital that we ensure no child goes hungry. That is why I believe free school meals should be extended over the school holidays for the duration of the pandemic, including the summer holidays. To ensure that children get the support they need, and to avoid a repeat of the issue of unacceptable food parcels initially provided under the policy of food vouchers, this support should be offered via direct cash transfers to parents.

I can assure you I will continue to call for Government action to address this problem.


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