UK

David Cameron 'Has No Means' Of Eliminating Food Poverty, Fabian Commission Says

28/10/2015 03:49 GMT | Updated 28/10/2015 09:59 GMT

David Cameron has "no means" of alleviating poverty to the point people no longer rely on food banks, a report into poverty has said.

The use of food banks has shot up in recent years and critics have said government welfare cuts and austerity have contributed to this.

A report by the The Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty said it was unclear how the prime minister would cut this and added the level of food bank use hid a deeper issue of people not being able to eat well because they are too poor.

The commission, backed by the left-wing Fabian Society, said the government had no idea how many people this applied and Mr Cameron lacked "any means" of ensuring they did.

Geoff Tansey, chair of the Commission, said: "David Cameron has made an admirable commitment to tackling poverty. But for food, people’s most basic need, he currently has no means of achieving this aim and no plan to deliver a reduction in food banks, let alone tackle the other links between food and poverty.

"The Commission has even found that the government has no count of the number of people who currently lack secure access to nutritious, affordable food.”

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The Trussell Trust, the biggest provider of food banks that provide three days of free food to clients in need, helped people with food 129,000 times in 2011/12 but did so more than a million times in 2014/15.

But Elizabeth Dowler, professor of food and social policy at the University of Warwick, told the Commission the number of times food banks were used was a bad way of measuring food poverty as they are "markers of households, usually, facing extreme or crisis problems, not about longstanding, ongoing issue".

Mr Cameron pledged "an all-out assault on poverty" this month and said, before May's general election, that he did not want anyone to have to rely on food banks".

The commission's report, published on Wednesday, says: "We need to recognise that food banks and charitable food providers are not solutions to household food insecurity, they are symptoms of society’s failure to ensure everybody is sustainably well-fed."

The report also notes that many people too poor to afford food do not use food banks for fear of the stigma of being labelled "

"The key point is that food banks are simply an indicator of a wider problem of household food insecurity," it said noting that it was "telling" that the commission's panel of experts all had experience of food poverty but none had visited a food bank.

It added: "Instead, they had borrowed money from family, built up debt, continued to go hungry, or consistently eaten food lacking in nutritional quality."

The commission proposed a 14-point plan to help people on or near the breadline.

They 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

  • Local authorities establish food access plans that will address any physical barriers to affordable, nutritious food in their area

Mr Tansey added: “It is not enough to ensure people don’t go hungry. Food banks are just the tip of the iceberg of a much bigger problem.

We need to make sure no one lives in fear of not being able to feed themselves or their family and to break the bigger links between food and poverty and their effect on people’s health, the environment and working conditions."