Social Justice

MPs are calling for a food insecurity minister to fight child malnourishment

The Environment Audit Committee warned that the issue has “fallen between the cracks” with almost two million people undernourished in the UK

MPs are urging the government to appoint a food insecurity minister to tackle hunger, malnutrition and obesity in the UK after warning that the issue had “fallen between the cracks”.

The Environment Committee, a group of MPs who scrutinise the government’s progress on environmental issues and meeting UN Sustainable Development Goals, has released a report insisting that the government has failed to respond to the issue.

The committee insists that the government’s obesity strategy has been silent on food insecurity despite one in five children suffering from moderate or severe food insecurity.

And levels in the UK have been deemed the worst in Europe with the Food Foundation estimating that 1.97 million people in the UK are undernourished.

The government’s commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goal 2: Zero Hunger is under threat of not being met “unless significant and co-ordinated action is taken”.

Chair of the committee Mary Creagh MP insists that cross-departmental action in the form of a Minister for Food Insecurity is the way forward to tackle the problems. “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,” she said. “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.”

The call has been echoed by foodbank charity Trussell Trust, which called for “concrete steps” towards eradicating food poverty while Child Poverty Action Group insisted that the matter should already at the forefront of the government’s poverty strategy.

“We already have a minister responsible for our social security system which, on any basic understanding of its role, is meant to prevent poverty, destitution and hunger in this country,” said CPAG chief executive Alison Garnham. “That we should need reminding of the UN’s sustainable development goals in such a rich country is a scandalous development.”

A spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions responded by insisting that government policies have lifted one million people out of absolute poverty since 2010 with 300,000 of them children.

“Household incomes have never been higher and the number of children living in workless households is at a record low, but we know there’s more to do ensure that every family has access to nutritious, healthy food,” the DWP spokesperson said. “We already provide support through free school meals and our Healthy Start Vouchers.”

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