Thousands of adults, children being put in crosshairs of food insecurity in UK

Parents cooking fresh produce with children copy

Food insecurity has reached a tipping point in the UK during the COVID-19 pandemic, with new data from the Food Foundation revealing that more than 13% of adults living with children reported moderate or severe food insecurity in the past six months.

Among the most staggering numbers out the YouGov survey commissioned by the Food Foundation were that 12% of adults say they've skipped meals because they couldn't afford them or because they didn't have access to food; 6% fed low-cost food to their children and another 5% say they provided unbalanced meals.

“The situation for families and their children is precarious," Anna Taylor, Executive Director of Food Foundation said. "It’s vital that the economic measures which have been put in place to protect struggling families are maintained and increased further in the Autumn budget given the economic scenario we are facing.”

The impact on children in particular has raised the eyebrows of many prominent people in the UK and been a linchpin to get involved in the cause, including Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.

Through the new Child Food Poverty Task Force, Rashford has reached out for support to a number of UK retailers including Aldi, Asda, Co-op, Iceland, Lidl, Sainsbury’s, Tesco and Waitrose, online food delivery service Deliveroo, and charities The Food Foundation and FareShare. He has asked them to endorse three policy recommendations, included in Henry Dimbleby’s Part 1, National Food Strategy, ahead of The Chancellor’s Budget and Spending Review.  

“As a sportsman, I have always found such power in unity and teamwork, and I’m thrilled that such influential voices have put any allegiance aside to join me on my mission to move the conversation of child food insecurity forward," Rashford said, "The Task Force stand together to offer these vulnerable children the platform they need to have their voices heard. I’m proud and I’m humbled to see such a reaction and commitment from the food industry, and I am confident that together we can help change the lives of those most vulnerable for the better.”

The Task Force is asking the government to expand eligibility for the Free School Meal scheme to include every child (up to the age of 16) from a household where the parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit; extend the Holiday Activity and Food Programme to all areas in England and Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers to £4.25 per week and expand the scheme to every pregnant woman and to all households with children under 4 where a parent or guardian is in receipt of Universal Credit or equivalent benefit.

The Food Foundation’s COVID-19 tracker shows that, despite people returning to work and children to school, food insecurity remains high for families. Even with some schemes that help has been temporary. Children need a healthy diet for them to grow, develop and participate actively in school and society.

“Lockdown has been really tough for so many young people and affected our lives in so many ways," Saffron Stedall, England, 16, Food Foundation Young Ambassador, said. "But there is now a real possibility that government could bring in some policies to help end the stigma of poverty and improve kids’ access to healthy, sustainable food. It would be good for our health and good for the planet too.”

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