I am calling on the Government to address the issue of COVID-19 related food poverty, as a report from the Food Foundation shows, 1.5m people have gone a full day without food as a result of the virus.
Beyond the medically shielded, the Food Foundation’s report identified between 4m and 7m people, in lower risk categories, who are affected by severe food insecurity or loneliness and are in danger of being tipped into food poverty by self-isolation.
COVID-19 has exposed the gaping holes in our food supply chain systems and it’s incredibly worrying to hear that, since the start of lockdown, 1.5 million people have gone a full day without eating because they can’t afford to buy food.
The Government must scrap the five week wait for the first Universal Credit payments. Over one million people, who’ve just signed up to Universal Credit in recent weeks, are now desperate for their first payment. Many will have taken advances that will tip them into food poverty in coming weeks.”
Food Foundation research, released earlier this month, has revealed that 5m people in the UK living in households with children under 18 have experienced food insecurity since the lockdown started. 1.8m of these experienced food insecurity solely due to the lack of supply of food in shops, leaving 3.2m people (11% of households) suffering from food insecurity due to issues such as loss of income or isolation. This is double the level of food insecurity among households with children reported by the Food Standards Agency in 2018 (5.7%).
Research by the Food Foundation also suggests that 31% of children entitled to free school meals – 500,000 children – are still not getting any substitute.
Foodbanks are clear that they do not have the capacity to support this number of people in need, and that the answer must be financial support to ensure those in need can afford to buy food themselves.
The Government must take urgent action, in the light of this evidence of the growing food poverty, and create an emergency COVID-19 food plan to ensure that no-one has to worry about where their next meal comes from.