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Lord Krebs, former-Chair of the Lords Food, Poverty, Health & the Environment Committee criticises Government’s slow and weak response to tackling food insecurity

Thursday 22 June 2023

Lord Krebs, former Chair of the House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment Committee has criticised the Government's response to tackling food insecurity in the UK for being too slow, lacking detail or concrete action.

The Committee’s report, Hungry for change: fixing the failures in food, published in July 2020, made 70 conclusions and recommendations calling for urgent action to address problems in the food system from production to consumption and a lack of government policy impacting the poorest hardest, condemning many children to a life of ill health, costing the NHS billions, and damaging the environment.

The House of Lords Liaison Committee produced a follow-up letter on the inquiry which prompted the Government’s response.

Whilst Lord Krebs acknowledges the progress in a unified commitment across Government to implement the Food Strategy as a positive step, concerns remain as a number of questions on poverty and food insecurity are left unanswered.

Lord Krebs, Former Chair House of Lords Food, Poverty, Health and Environment Committee said:

“Disappointingly, the Government’s dither and delay approach to tackling food insecurity continues. Too many of the Government’s solutions to our recommendations are too slow, lacking detail or focussed on ongoing reviews, pilot schemes or other work in progress rather than on concrete action.

“Whilst the unified commitment across Government to implement the Food Strategy and the promise of a land use framework next year is all positive, the lack of assurance on the future direction of tackling obesity, the slow progress for improved food and drink labeling and no current plan to review school meal standards remains a worry.

“The Government’s decision to delay yet again the introduction of a ban on “buy one get one free” (BOGOF) promotions shows a truly shocking lack of commitment to tackling dietary ill health and inequalities. The excuse that the delay is to do with the cost-of-living crisis doesn’t bear scrutiny.

“Research shows that BOGOFs induce people to spend more rather than less, and to spend it on junk food which is the primary focus of these promotions.

“One of our key findings was the truly shocking levels of inequality in this country of health and life expectancy, in part caused by poor diet of people living in the most deprived areas and contributing to a difference in healthy life expectancy of about 20 years between the richest and poorest.

“The Government has done nothing to tackle this, although it should be a central part of “levelling up”.

“It is also a concern to me that assessment of the cost of a healthy and balance diet has still not been provided and there is an absence of detail on the proportion of children in poverty benefiting from free school meals. These details are important in getting a grip of the issue.

“As the summer holiday approaches, food insecurity is still a real concern for many families. I repeat our call for the Government to get on with finding fast solutions to ensure everyone, regardless of income, has access to a healthy and sustainable diet.”

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