A group of young food ambassadors aged 10 – 20 have travelled to Westminster to share their experiences of food insecurity with the House of Lords, as part of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry.

The inquiry has set out to document the reality of food insecurity for children and explore new solutions, and will feed into the report ‘What Young People Say About Food’ which will contain insights from over 300 young people.

Recent data has revealed that a quarter of children who do not receive free school meals end up skipping lunch altogether because they cannot afford it.

The report of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on hunger in the United Kingdom ‘A strategy for zero hunger’ highlights the multifaceted reasons for hunger. These include:

  • a reduction in real wages
  • benefits levels and changes
  • juggling the budget for food
  • housing and utilities
  • people being overwhelmed by a sudden budgetary crisis
  • the absence of free school meals (FSM).

Figures suggest that 1 in 6 adults has skipped a meal because they couldn’t afford it and 1 in 12 has gone a whole day without eating.

School holidays make up 13 weeks of the year and this brings its own problems for families who are experiencing food poverty. With the absence of free school meals, some 3 million children are at risk of hunger during the holiday periods.

The Food Standards Agency’s definition of ‘food poverty’ is ‘a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life. It may be caused by unavailability of food, insufficient purchasing power, inappropriate distribution or inadequate use of food at the household level. Food insecurity may be chronic, seasonal or transitory.’

 

A quote from an article on Rural Services Network explains the reality of food poverty in the UK,

“I work—two jobs—and my husband works full-time. We should be able to afford good, nutritious food. We should be able to afford food. The reality, though, is multiple days when dinner has been a tin of chopped tomatoes, some value dried mixed herbs, and 20p pasta; we have to regularly feed our family on around £1.50 for the entire meal—not per head. By the time our rent is paid, money put on the gas and electric keys, the bills paid…there’s nothing left. We drink water, we eat the cheapest food, but we struggle to afford even that.”

 

The Kernow Food Collective is a group in Cornwall made up of Cornwall Food Foundation, Cornwall Council, local foodbanks and a number of other organisations working in the county. Their aim is to create food wealth so that no one in Cornwall goes hungry.

They work to increase skills and access, reduce food poverty, rebalance food surplus and eliminate food waste. They focus on tackling the greatest challenges to health and wellbeing including:

  • Holiday Hunger;
  • Listening to Local Voices;
  • Cooking & Growing Skills;
  • Emergency Food Access;
  • Schools, Hospitals & Care;
  • Food and Older People;
  • Sustainable Food Production;
  • Distribution and Surplus;
  • Research, Evaluation and Learning.

You can watch a short film of Matthew Thomson from Kernow Food Collective speaking at the Food Power National Conference 2018 here.

One of Cornwall’s biggest foodbanks, Camborne Pool Redruth (CPR) Foodbank, had its busiest ever week in December of last year with more than 3,500 meals provided to help alleviate the effect of poverty in the local area.

Don Gardner, who runs the foodbank with his team of volunteers, says he has seen an increase in the number of people who are seeking handouts to survive.

The Trussell Trust, a charity that co-ordinates the only nationwide network of food banks in the country, says that colder weather heaps pressure onto people already in crisis during the winter, increasingly families unable to cover the basic costs of living such as heating bills, food and other essentials.