COMMONS

Committee urges government to appoint Minister for Hunger

10 January 2019

The Government has failed to recognise and respond to the issues of hunger, malnutrition and obesity in the UK and should appoint a minister to ensure cross-departmental action, says the Environmental Audit Committee.

Government should appoint Minister for Hunger to tackle its failure on issue

  • Food insecurity is significant and growing in the UK, with levels among the worst in Europe, especially for children.
  • Government has failed to recognise and respond domestically – and has allowed these issues to ‘fall between the cracks’.
  • Government obesity strategy is silent on food insecurity.
  • Minister for Hunger should be appointed to ensure cross-departmental action.

Its new report, Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK, published today, focuses on the Government’s commitment to deliver UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: Zero Hunger. The second half of the report reviews its broader progress against the domestic implementation of the SDGs.

Food insecurity in the UK

The report finds that food insecurity in the UK, defined as “limited access to food … due to lack of money or other resources”, is significant and growing. Levels are among the worst in Europe, especially for children, with 19% of under 15s living with an adult who is moderately or severely food insecure.

The Committee heard how food insecurity can lead to both malnutrition and obesity, with people forced to rely on the very cheapest foods, which are often nutrient-poor but calorie-rich. The Government’s obesity strategy makes no mention of food insecurity and only the Department for International Development mentions hunger in its Single Departmental Plan.

MPs call on the Government to appoint a Minister for Hunger, to ensure cross-departmental understanding and action on this important issue. It must engage with civil society to analyse the scale, causes and impacts of food insecurity in the UK, implement strategies for improvement and monitor progress.

Chair's Comments

Chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh MP, said:

“Many of us are still recovering from Christmas excess but the sad fact is that more children are growing up in homes where parents don’t have enough money to put food on the table.

“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. We found that nearly one in five children under 15 are living in a food insecure home – a scandal which cannot be allowed to continue.

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

Further information

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