Food poverty should be Government priority, says Children's Society


The Children's Society has said the Government need to listen to its own advice on food poverty.

The charity is asking the Government to implement the recommendations of a report out today from the Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), which argue for more action to fight the causes of food poverty.

The DEFRA report says "household food insecurity must remain a priority [for] government, business and civil society".

It concludes that those who use food banks are "the most food insecure households" and that they are approaching these charities as a "last resort".

Peter Grigg, Director of Campaigns and Policy at The Children's Society said: "This report exposes the real reasons that more and more families are using food banks across the UK.

"Families on low incomes and in poverty are being forced to turn to food banks because they cannot find the money to feed their children and themselves."

The report details multiple factors contributing to increasing demand for food banks, including long-term low income, indebtedness and benefit payments.

It also called for more action to prevent poverty, rather than merely alleviating it: "Those involved in food security policy and other responses ... need to focus on both short and long-term causes of household food insecurity."

The reason for this, according to the report is: "Food aid may provide immediate relief from the symptoms of food insecurity... [but] the evidence suggests that food aid has a limited impact on overall household food security status."

Mr Grigg concurred, saying: "The Government must take action to address the underlying causes of the rising costs of living, poverty and debt, cuts to support for families and a lack of help available in a crisis."

While he praised some government programmes that had helped people in the past, but said they needed to be sustained. With the Department for Work and Pensions withdrawing all funding for local welfare assistance schemes, he said their future was "in question".

Focusing on the 3.5 million children in the UK living in poverty, Mr Grigg welcomed the fact that free school meals are to be offered for all infants from September, but noted that half a million children in poverty will still be missing out on them at primary and secondary school levels.

The report further noted that those with the greatest need of food aid do not always seek help because "they are too ashamed or anxious to try, or they feel they will not meet criteria for access".

DEFRA went on to recommend "supportive spaces for those in need" for people coming to welfare centres where they could be listened to and receive advice.

Mr Grigg welcomed the intervention by the Archbishop of Westminster, Vincent Nichols, Church of England bishops and other church leaders who this week criticised the Government's welfare reforms and called for more action to stem the rising tide of food poverty.

"Church leaders are right to highlight an issue that should concern all of us," said Mr Grigg.

"No one should tolerate the fact that huge numbers of children and families are going hungry."