- A quarter of a million people reliant on emergency food aid.
- One in five mothers go without food on a regular basis so that their children can eat.
Do these figures relate to Ethiopia, Sudan, the Congo – or the UK? Hunger is no longer a reality only for families in drought stricken, war torn or ‘underdeveloped’ countries in sub-Saharan Africa. Hunger is an increasing reality for families in what is still the sixth richest nation on the planet.
And just as in sub-saharan Africa, this is not due to a shortage of food. The supermarket shelves are still stacked high with produce from every corner of the globe, driven across the country in refrigerated lorries; transported across the globe in vast container ships or airfreighted from fields afar…
… But out of the reach of increasing numbers of families who simply don’t have the financial wherewithal to food their kids on a regular basis. With incomes stagnant (or in many cases falling), and the prices of food, fuel and other essential goods and services rising faster than ever, the equation for all too many families is far too simple: Pay the bills or visit the supermarket? Heat or eat? Feed myself or feed the kids?
The Trussell Trust – the largest network of foodbanks in the UK has provided emergency food assistance to a staggering 260,000 families to date this year. Double the number of families they supported last year – and four times as many as two years ago. Over 300 local foodbanks are affiliated to the Trussell Trust, and it is opening a further 3 every week. Their long-term aim is to open a foodbank in each and every community across the UK.
As Chris Mould, Executive Chair of the Trussell Trust said: “We see the reality of food poverty day in and day out in food banks across the country. We see it and we’re often shocked by the depth of difficulty people face. Behind the statistics are hungry mouths.”
“The problem is not confined to just a few pockets of inner city Britain – this is widespread. It’s a consequence of low income and the high rise in the cost of providing for basic needs. Therefore it needs political attention, from all parties.”
And the UK’s food crisis is now starting to attract international attention. As the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, Olivier de Schutter reminded us at a meeting in London tonight, it is the duty of the UK Government to protect the basic human right to an adequate diet. The bulk of Mr de Schutter’s work is focused on investigating the causes of food crises in developing countries, he is increasingly being called on to investigate food crises in the world’s richest countries, where ‘the failure of social policies’ since the recession is leaving increasing numbers of families to go hungry.
The European Union too is now in discussion about the potential for extending its Food Aid Programme to all 27 Member States – including the UK – with 2.5 billion Euros having been provisionally allocated to a new seven year Programme in the recent EU budget round. At present the UK and a number of other states are resisting the plans – presumably another one of the EU’s ‘wasteful’ social programmes??
Last month over 100 international NGOs launched the IF campaign – to end global hunger. I can’t help feeling that it is something of an irony that the IF campaign currently doesn’t include seeking to end hunger close to home.
Is it more palatable to tackle hunger in sub-saharan Africa, than it is to face up to the reality of hunger in our own backyard?