The All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty completed their inquiry and published their report, Feeding Britain, today. We’ve been calling for this inquiry since May 2013, and we’re very pleased to see that its recommendations cover some of the things we’ve been talking about in our own work. Here are some quick reflections on the report, the launch, the media coverage, and the debate that it has sparked.
You can read Church Action on Poverty’s own response to the report here.
Researcher Jane Perry attended the Westminster launch of the report on our behalf. Here are some of her comments:
- The Report presents a staggering 77 recommendations taken from analysis of a truly impressive range of evidence gathered across the Inquiry. The Evidence Review alone is a powerful and commanding document.
- The Inquiry is also commendably cross-party – as Justin Welby put it in his introduction, the shocking scale of the challenges uncovered by the report cannot simply be a party-political issue.
- However, many Inquiry members at the launch fell into fairly well worn tracks which avoided talking about the giant benefits system elephant which was – or actually, more to the point, wasn’t – in the room. No DWP ministers or officials were present and the Government response barely made a mention of welfare issues.
- How does the proposed Feeding Britain network [linking Government and voluntary sector responses to food poverty, and boosting food banks] fit alongside the concern of many, including those who run them, that food banks should not become an accepted part of welfare provision? What does the creation of a new entity mean for the roles and responsibilities of the Government departments involved?
- Whilst food waste is undeniably a national scandal, will conflating the very separate issues of food waste and hunger actually draw attention away from the real need – to ensure we all have access to a credible, sustainable, reliable income which means we are able to feed ourselves?
Reading the report and some of the reactions, Church Action on Poverty staff at our HQ noted a few things too:
- It’s great to see that the report highlights the Poverty Premium as a driving factor in food poverty: we’ve been looking more widely at high utility costs, debt and high-cost credit, and related issues. In fact, we were launching our own Food, Fuel, Finance report in Glasgow at the same time as Feeding Britain was being launched in Westminster.
- It’s great that Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has backed the report’s calls for action on benefit sanctions. While he clearly has party political reasons for doing so, it’s still the first time that a senior Coalition politician has acknowledged the link between benefit sanctions and food poverty.
- Keith Hebden, founder of the End Hunger Fast, gives a thoughtful response to the report on the Compassionistas blog.