A cross-party committee of MPs has said the government should appoint a minister for hunger as it has failed to tackle the “significant and growing” issue, particularly among children.
The Commons’ Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) found levels of food insecurity – defined as going hungry, being at risk of going hungry, or being worried about going hungry because of a shortage of money – in the UK are among the worst in Europe.
Nearly one-in-five children under the age of 15 lives with an adult who is “moderately or severely food insecure”, the committee said.
A combination of high living costs, stagnating wages and the ongoing rollout of the government’s flagshipUniversal Credit benefits programme were identified as contributing factors.
The committee heard how food insecurity can lead to both malnutrition and obesity, with people forced to rely on the very cheapest foods, which are often nutrient-poor, but calorie-rich.
The government’s obesity strategy makes no mention of food insecurity and only the Department for International Development mentions hunger in its Single Departmental Plan, which set out objectives for government divisions.
The EAC’s chair, Labour MP Mary Creagh, said: “Many of us are still recovering from Christmas excess, but the sad fact is that more children are growing up in homes where parents don’t have enough money to put food on the table.
“The government’s New Year resolution should be one of taking urgent action at home to tackle hunger and malnutrition.
“This can only be addressed by setting clear UK-wide targets and by appointing a minister for hunger to deliver them.”
A minister for hunger would help “to ensure cross-departmental understanding and action” across the government, the EAC said.