Edwina Currie has been roundly lambasted for suggesting children living in poverty in the UK can’t be going hungry at the same time the country faces an epidemic of child obesity.
The former Tory MP was reacting to recent report that found up to three million British children will go hungry in the school holidays without access to school meals.
While the link between child poverty, hunger and obesity is complex, other Twitter users were on hand to point out the most obvious errors in Currie’s reasoning.
While others suggested their own versions of what has already become known as #CurrieLogic.
The report in question from the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) on hunger found a “deeply troubling” effect on children returning to school malnourished after holiday periods.
It said: “There can be no escape from the reality that in 2017, children in different parts of England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland are arriving back at school hungry and totally unprepared to learn after the holidays.
“We have learnt of one young person who vomited during the holidays because their diet consisted exclusively of packets of crisps.
“Elsewhere, a group of children taking part in a holiday football tournament had to drop out of the latter stages of the competition, as they had not eaten a meal in the days leading up to the event. Their bodies simply gave up on them.”
A poor diet arising from a reliance on cheaper, unhealthier fast food and snacks is also a factor in child obesity.
According to the Government’s plan for action on child obesity:
Children aged five and from the poorest income groups are twice as likely to be obese compared to their most well off counterparts and by age 11 they are three times as likely.
Despite this Currie stood by her stance and even suggested the latest figures were made up in order to justify think-tanks and charities.
Currie did have some support form those who argued that an unhealthy diet was born of ignorance rather than cost, although this too was heavily questioned.
The state of food poverty in the UK has also been laid bare today by the Trussell Trust who revealed a record number of almost 1.2 million emergency supplies were given out at food banks in the past year.
The charity said its network provided 1,182,954 three-day food supplies to people “in crisis” in the year to March, over 70,000 more than the previous 12 months.
Almost 440,000 supplies went to children.
Food banks in areas where the new Universal Credit (UC) benefit was introduced saw an average increase in referrals for emergency food of almost 17%.
The trust said the effect of a six-week waiting period for a first UC payment could be serious, leading to debt and rent arrears. Benefit delays and changes remain the biggest cause of someone being referred to a foodbank by a doctor, social worker or jobcentre.
David McAuley, chief executive of the Trussell Trust, said: “The move to simplify an often complex welfare system is a welcome one, but any large reform can have unforeseen consequences.
“Food banks see first-hand how changes to the welfare system affect people on the ground and so can offer an early warning to decision-makers.
“We are sharing our early observations with the Department for Work and Pensions to ensure any adverse side-effects Universal Credit can have on people are addressed before full rollout is completed.
“We have been heartened by Secretary of State Damian Green’s willingness to engage, his department’s work to pilot improvements, and the recent changes to the Universal Credit taper rate which mean people moving into work will keep more of their earnings.
“We hope our insights can inform efforts to make sure the values on which Universal Credit is built are delivered in practice. To stop UK hunger, we must make sure the welfare system really does work for everyone.”
An engineer who was made redundant after 37 years spoke of his experience of having to rely on a food bank.
Speaking anonymously, he said: “At the age of 52, I’ve struggled to get a new job. I applied for Universal Credit and was told I would have to wait for at least six to eight weeks before I received any money. Who can live on nothing for two months?
“It was only when I could no longer ask family and friends for money that I turned to Citizens Advice for help - they referred me to the food bank.
“Without the food bank, I honestly don’t know where I’d be. I was living on nothing during that period. It’s hard, especially when you’re been working for so long, and I did get very depressed and distressed. The people at the food bank pulled me out of the mire.”
The Trussell Trust has more than 420 food banks, with people having an average of two referrals in the past year.
A Department for Work and Pensions spokesman said: “The reasons for food bank use are complex, so it’s misleading to link them to any one issue.
“Under Universal Credit people are moving into work faster and staying in work longer than under the old system.
“Universal Credit is designed to mirror the world of work and give people control over their own finances.
“The majority of UC claimants are confident in managing their money and we work closely with local authorities to support those who need extra help. Budgeting support, benefit advances, and direct rent payments to landlords are available to those who need them.”
Debbie Abrahams, shadow work and pensions secretary, said: “This is a damning condemnation of the Tories’ economic failure.
“The direct result of the Tories failing to grow the economy so that all parts of the country benefit, average wages below 2007 levels and cuts to in-work support for families on low incomes; the rampant use of punitive sanctions has also had a devastating impact.
“Labour will implement a real living wage, reverse these damaging cuts to support for working people, scrap the punitive Tory sanction regime and invest to grow our economy so that we all benefit, not just the few.”