What is the issue?
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.
What the BDA is doing
The BDA believes there are a range of measures that can be taken to deal with food poverty.
- Supporting campaigns to introduce measures that would mitigate food poverty
- Read our most recent joint letter to the Education Secretary urging action on holiday hunger.
- Take a look at our most recent letter alongsde more than 50 other bodies and individuals calling for a strengthened Healthy Start Scheme.
- Joining the Inequalities in Health Alliance
- Pushing for a legally enshrined "Right to Food" - which would place a duty on local and national governments to ensure nobody goes hungry.
- Most recently we responded to a consultation led by on introducing a Right to Food (Scotland) Bill
- Working with other Trade Unions we are pushing for urgent reform of Universal Credit, which has been responsible for significant food insecurity.
- This work links closely to our work on Malnutrition and Brexit.
What you can do to support
We need to highlight the issue at a local and national level. There are numerous national campaigns that you can support including:
- Support Marcus Rashford's petition on ending child food poverty
- Back the Childrens' Right2Food campaign
- Join the Trussel Trust in their #FiveWeeksTooLong campaign to reduce the impact of the waiting period for Universal Credit.
- Tell us about your personal experiences of patients/families living in food poverty so we can use them in our campaigning.
It is also important to raise matters directly with those in local and national government who may be in a position to affect change.
- Write to your MP, MSP, MLA or MS, or your local councillors to urge them to tackle food poverty and highlight your personal experiences as a dietitian.
- Engage with your local services to see what steps they are taking to address food poverty and what extra support is needed.
- Tell us about what you find out.
- Read about Sustain's "Right to Food" campaign
- Check out the Food Foundation's various reports detailing the scale of food poverty in the UK.
- Read the National Food Strategy Part 1 which had a particular focus on food poverty.
- Read the PHE COVID-19 disparities in risks and outcomes report.
- Read the House of Lords Committee on Food, Poverty, Health and the Environment report "Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food".
- Take a look at the statement by our President, Giles Yeo, on Brexit and its possible impact on food security.