30 UK cities call for government action on food poverty and warn that food banks are not the solution

07 July 2015

• 30 cities, all members of the Sustainable Food Cities Network - including London, Cardiff, Belfast and Edinburgh - call for urgent action on food poverty by Government.
• Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest food bank network, and FareShare, the UK’s largest food redistribution charity, warn that voluntary efforts cannot replace a strong social safety net.
• Cities are allocating scarce resources to stop gap measures, such as food banks and other schemes to feed hungry people, while the number of people in food poverty grows year on year.

30 towns, cities, boroughs and counties – representing more than 18 million citizens – have signed a declaration calling on Government to address the policy failures that have led to surging numbers of Britons going hungry. 

‘All citizens should have access to good food as a matter of course, not as a result of charity. Strategies that create good jobs, prepare children to learn, and ensure access to healthy food for all are needed to reverse rising tide of hunger in Britain,' said Rosie Boycott, Chair of the London Food Board.

Britain could cut food bank use in half by fixing problems with the operation of the benefits system and making sure that work pays enough to meet basic needs.i, ii

• Last year, almost 100,000 children in the UK went hungry because their parents’ benefits were stopped or cut, sometimes simply because their parents were late for an appointment at the Jobcentre.iii
• Nearly a quarter of food bank users are employed in low wage jobsiv, which cost UK taxpayers an estimated £11 billion per year.v

Whilst cities are funding community meals, school breakfast and holiday hunger schemes to help the most vulnerable ward off hunger, they are also currently allocating scarce resources to stop gap measures, including £3m of public money to support food banksvi and more than £43 million every year to provide food and other support to children in povertyvii.

"We believe the Government is wrong to push responsibility for tackling food poverty back to local councils and charity efforts when the core reasons for why people need to use food banks is because of central Government decisions, the failings of the DWP and the inability to make work pay. We have taken the lead on this issue here in Edinburgh and I am pleased now to welcome this joint declaration from 30 cities across the UK," said Edinburgh Council Leader Andrew Burns.

The food poverty crisis will deepen without concerted action to address the root causes of food poverty. The UK now trails Portugal, Cyprus and Ireland, with more than 5.5 million Britons considered food insecure.viii This data confirms that food bank visits – which topped 1 million this yearix – are just the tip of the iceberg of food poverty in the UK. A leaked internal memo shows that the Government’s plans to lower the benefit cap will plunge 40,000 more children below the poverty linex. Westminster must adopt policies that address the root causes of food poverty.

Through the Beyond the Food Bank campaign, we champion strategies that address the root causes of food poverty, reverse demand for emergency food assistance, provide a publicly-funded safety net for the most vulnerable and ensure that low-income households can afford and access good food.

i http://policy-practice.oxfam.org.uk/publications/emergency-use-only-understanding-and-reducing-the-use-of-food-banks-in-the-uk-335731

ii http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/Trussell-Trust-foodbank-use-tops-one-million.pdf

iii http://www.church-poverty.org.uk/rethinksanctions/report

iv http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/Trussell-Trust-foodbank-use-tops-one-million.pdf

v http://www.citizensuk.org/taxpayer

vi http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-26369558

vii http://touchstoneblog.org.uk/2015/05/schools-and-teachers-have-to-fill-the-holes-in-the-welfare-safety-net/

viii http://ec.europa.eu/eurostat/web/products-datasets/-/ilc_mdes03

ix http://www.trusselltrust.org/resources/documents/Press/Trussell-Trust-foodbank-use-tops-one-million.pdf

x http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2015/may/29/household-benefit-cap-plunge-40000-kids-poverty-memo



Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk 

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