The Government has been urged to tax fizzy drinks to fund projects to tackle the “scandal” of children going for days without a substantial meal because of poverty.
The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger, led by MP Frank Field and including the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby, today publishes its report labelling child hunger in the UK a “national emergency”.
Mr Field blasted ministers, claiming the Government was treating “the scandal of hunger as little more than a boil of no significance on our society” and the Archbishop accused the Government of leaving families vulnerable to hunger and poverty because of controversial welfare reform.
Its key recommendation is for the Government to give serious consideration to the Health Select Committee’s call to introduce a levy of 20p per litre on drinks with a high sugar content, and putting aside 4p per litre to fund a national programme of school holiday food and fun provision - similar to the scheme already underway in his constituency.
It also suggests that the prompt delivery of benefit and tax credit payments in full, allied to a "fair and effective sanctions regime", would more than halve the numbers of people relying on emergency food parcels.
The UK’s largest food bank network, the Trussell Trust said in May that it had distributed enough emergency food to feed almost 1.1 million people for three days in 2014-15.
The report comes a year after its first report, Feeding Britain, and shows the number of people relying on food parcels is at a level unseen since the Second World War.
It goes on that there is a “sense of defeat” across the country where vulnerability to hunger is “now accepted as a permanent fact of life”.
Mr Field, chairman of the group, said hunger “stalks our country” and called on the Prime Minister to mobilise the full force of the state through its Cobra Committee.
He said: “The greatest failure of our cross-party group has been our inability to stem into government that same sense of urgency that has motivated to such effect the Big Society.
“The Government seems to treat the scandal of hunger as little more than a boil of no significance on our society.
“Nothing could be further from the truth. The body of our country is wreaked by a raging fever called hunger.”
The Archbishop said: "It is shocking to read both of the scale of food waste and also of the large amount of evidence that sanctions and delays in connection with the benefits system are still causing what would appear to be unnecessary problems."