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UK Government criticised over food security and poverty

2 min read
AUTHOR: Matt Ridout
Houses of Parliament in London

Academics Tim Lang, Terry Marsden and Erik Millstone have criticised the UK Government over ‘Neo-Victorian’ levels of food poverty as well as failing to safeguard the country’s food supply and security. In an open letter they have urged Prime Minister Boris Johnson to invest in adequate infrastructure to ensure food security for the future.

Food policy has been an embarrassing issue for the Conservative government, who performed a series of U-turns over the provision of free school meals for children after campaigns by the footballer Marcus Rashford. Rashford has called for an urgent review of food provisions for the poorest children in the country following his campaign.

“Food poverty is now in the neo-Victorian mode of relying on food banks, but they cannot keep up with rising demand,” said Millstone, a professor at the University of Sussex. “Poor diet and poor health has undoubtedly contributed to the U.K.’s appalling Covid death rate, particularly among families on low incomes, and this needs to be the catalyst for a major change.”

The academics have said that not enough has been done in the UK, both with regard to Brexit and COVID-19, to prepare the country for potential crises.

Among their recommendations they say:

  • Deploying resources from the closed hospitality sector to provide emergency food centres.
  • Instructing government organisations to produce nutritional advice on foods consumers should be choosing to protect themselves against the threat of Covid-19.
  • Creating an independent council to provide advice on the long-term direction for the U.K. agri-food system to improve food security.

UK food security in the spotlight

Professor Erik Millstone and Professor Tim Lang will be appearing at Food Matters Live in March to join a live webcast focused on food security in the UK. The fragility of the UK’s food system was exposed at the height of the pandemic. Now as we move to a new era beyond BREXIT, reflecting on the learnings from the first three months, our panel of policy makers, industry leaders and academics will look at how the UK’s food system must evolve in light of trade deals & tariffs, increases in food prices and the growing number of people facing food poverty.

The session is part of the Global Food Futures programme at Food Matters Live that focuses on geopolitics, food security and sustainability across the world, and how the industry can help solve these challenges.

To find out more about Global Food Futures at Food Matters Live click here