The head of Britain's largest network of food banks has said his charity is "totally comfortable" with the association with large multi-national corporations like Kellogg's and Tesco, if the food giants can help the Trussell Trust feed more people.
His comments came as Kellogg's launched a detailed report into food poverty, offering 15 million breakfast and snacks to breakfast clubs and food banks by 2016, including Trussell Trust food banks.
Chris Mould, the trust's chair, said he was occasionally challenged on the vested interests of large companies in partnering with his charity, but said he had to think about the bottom line.
"Large companies are using food banks to give something back to the community.
Foodbank volunteer Linda Wilson talks to Elaine Oliver and her daughter Safiyah Lesley, aged 14 months, after collecting essential Christmas food
"We want to be partners in that. That's the bottom line. We have to get food. If the large companies can help us we are delighted.
"Of course there are times we are challenged about it, but actually more often we are asked if supermarkets are helping us, now I'm delighted to say yes, when the answer used to be no, three years ago. It's a positive change."
Kellogg's are one of the 10 food giants targeted by Oxfam in their campaign for a fairer food system, 'Enough Food For Everyone If', which gave company just 28% on a scorecard for transparency of their supply chains and operations, rights of workers and public policies.
But the publication of the report commissioned by Kellogg's, in association with the Centre for Economics and Business Research, seemed to show a commitment to tackling inequality in the food system, especially fairer pricing.
Jonathan Myers, managing director of Kellogg’s UK and Republic of Ireland, said: “It is a sad fact that there are people in the UK who cannot afford to feed their families.
“A huge change needs to take place to tackle food poverty and the food industry can play a crucial part by donating more surplus food.
“Kellogg’s is continuing its work to set up and support more breakfast clubs in vulnerable areas of the country as well as donating food to foodbanks across the UK.
“We’d encourage the whole of the food industry to do more and donate surplus food to help families living in food poverty."
The report highlighted that families are spending more on their supermarket baskets, but eating less, with food prices forcing more into poverty and to food banks.
- The average UK household annual food bill is forecast to rise by £357 over the next five years
- People are spending more on food, but actually eating less. UK expenditure on food and non-alcoholic beverages has increased by almost 20% in the past five years, but the volume of food consumed dropped by a little over 7%
- The poorest households in the UK have cut back on fruit (by 20%) and vegetables (by 12%) as people struggle to afford basic nutritious food
- The poorest 10% of households spent almost a quarter of their income (23.8%) on food and non-alcoholic drink in 2012 compared with an annual spend of around 4.2% by the richest 10% of households
- Single parent households and retired households both spent more than 10% of their gross income on food and non-alcoholic drink, at 12.2% and 11.2% respectively, in 2012
- 4.7 million Brits could be described as being in food poverty – having no choice but to spend 10% or more of their household income on food and making bad nutritional choices
- The Trussell Trust estimates 280,000 people will be fed by their foodbanks in 2012/2013. Four out of five teachers say some of their pupils are coming to school hungry
Mould told HuffPost UK it was a signal that the food giant took the issue of food pricing seriously.
"We are very explicit that food pricing is a problem, and the Kellogg's report actually highlights that.
Volunteers begin to process a food voucher at a Food Bank depot at St Paul's Church in Brixton
"Households are spending 20% more to buy 7% less and those are serious and concerning statistics. And it's extremely worrying.
"Kellogg's sponsored that research. They say they are interested in this issue, and they want to help. Their pricing strategy is a matter for them alone, but they seem to be seriously interested and they have a part to play in tackling poverty."
Mould said he was still disappointed that the prime minister had not taken up his offer to visit him to discuss food poverty.
David Cameron has visited an independent food bank in his Oxfordshire constituency, which Mould said was "fine, but what we wanted was to talk to him about food poverty from our perspective as an organisation which runs more than 300 foodbanks, feeding more than 280,000 in 2012-13.
"We are the organisation that can share proper statistics about the challenge of food poverty. We are extremely disappointed he did not accept our invitation."