A Minister for Hunger should be appointed to tackle the issues of hunger, malnutrition and obesity, a committee of MPs has said.
Food insecurity in the UK is among the worst in Europe, especially for children, according to the Environmental Audit Committee’s new report, Hunger.
Food insecurity is defined as limited access to food… due to lack of money or other resources. The report found that it is a significant and growing problem in the UK.
The report warns there is a doughnut-shaped hole in attempts to meet the UN goal of zero hunger and malnutrition by 2030.
Committee chair 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.
Ms Creagh said the government should be taking urgent action 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, she added.
Additionally, the committee recommends that the government update its obesity strategy to take account of the close relationship between obesity, hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in the UK.
It argues those with little money for food spend it on cheap meals that are rich in calories – which drives obesity.
Commenting on the report, Child Poverty Action Group chief executive Alison Garnham said: 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.
That we should need reminding of the UN’s sustainable development goals in such a rich country is a scandalous development.
Good for the committee for pointing this out and reminding the government of its binding duties, she added.
Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, said: We fully support the committee’s call for a Minister for Hunger and a measurement of food insecurity.
A failure to address the root causes of poverty has led to soaring need for food banks, with more than 1.3 million food parcels provided to people by our network last year.