William Eichler 29 October 2015

Local authorities should help tackle ‘household food insecurity’

Local authorities should establish food access plans that will address any physical barriers to affordable, nutritious food in their area, according to a new report.

Hungry for Change, the final report of the year-long Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, uncovers what it characterises as a crisis of food access for many households in the UK and sets out a number of recommendations to tackle it.

Drawing on public hearings, expert testimony and the insights of people with experience of managing poverty, the commission found that many people are living with what they describe as ‘household food insecurity’.

The report defines this state of insecurity as the inability to acquire or consume an adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that one will be able to do so.

The Fabian Commission calls on the Government to take an active approach to tackling the structural drivers of food poverty and has produced a 14 point plan for how the government can create a food system that works for people on and near the breadline.

Its recommendations include:

• A pilot tax on sugary drinks so that the efficacy of taxes on unhealthy food and drink can be assessed.
• A review of current advertising codes to identify where existing rules are being flouted and children are being bombarded by unhealthy promotions.
• A new cross-departmental minister with responsibility for eliminating household food insecurity in the UK.
• Action to reduce acute household food insecurity caused by social security benefit sanctions, delays and errors.
• An inquiry to identify effective ways of removing poverty premiums for key living costs including food, utilities, housing, household appliances, and transport.

Geoff Tansey, chair of the commission, writes in the report’s preface: ‘Many, probably a majority, of children born in the UK today will live beyond 2100. If we do not take action to establish a more sustainable food system that works better for the poorest as well as the rest of society, these children will lead very different, and in some cases, much diminished lives. It is in that long-term context we need to look at food and poverty.’

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