Food poverty does not have a precise definition, but can be summarised as the inability of individuals and households to obtain an adequate and nutritious diet in socially acceptable ways, or the uncertainty that they will able to do so. The term “food insecurity” is sometimes used instead. The causes of food poverty or insecurity are complex. It can affect those living on low incomes, but also people with limited access to transport, poor housing or physical or mental ill health.
Recent evidence has shown that food poverty is rising within the UK. Statistics from the Trussell Trust, one of the UKs largest food bank networks, are often referenced. The trust has reported year-on-year increases in food bank use; in 2018-19, 1,583,668 three-day emergency food supplies were given to people in crisis.
However, it is likely that scale of food poverty is much worse. The Food Foundation in 2017 estimated that in 2014, 17 times more people were food insecure than were visiting the Trussell Trust. COVID-19 has almost certainly made this worse, with the Food Foundation estimating that the number of adults who are food insecure will have quadrupled during lockdown.
The UN’s Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, Professor Philip Alston, released a worrying report in July 2019 based on his visit to the UK. He praised the work of Trussell Trust and others, but was clear that “it is not an adequate substitute for a Government fulfilling its obligations".
The BDA has a policy statement on food poverty and food insecurity, in which we state that nobody in a nation as wealthy as the UK should be living in food poverty. Dietitians see the impact of such food poverty in their practice every day, and know the impact it has on wider health and wellbeing.
The BDA believes there are a range of measures that can be taken to deal with food poverty.
We want you to write to your Member of Parliament (for the UK Parliament) to urge them to support the Early Day Motion on Food Insecurity by Ian Byrne MP.
There are other ways to highlight the issue at a local and national level. There are numerous national campaigns that you can support including: