Campaigners in Birmingham are calling for a legally binding Right To Food in the UK in what they argue will offer struggling families “the opportunity of health, happiness and dignity.”
The Right To Food Campaign, a nationwide initiative to end food poverty led by Ian Byrne MP, have submitted five demands to the government’s National Food Strategy in a bid to enshrine a Right To Food into UK law.
The National Food Strategy – an independent review of the UK’s food system led by Henry Dimbleby – is the first of its kind for 75 years.
In a meeting with Mr Dimbleby yesterday, the group put forward five initial proposals:
- Universal free school meals for every child in compulsory education.
- The use of school canteens as community kitchens during evenings, weekends and school holidays.
- A duty on the government, when allocating benefits and wages, to publicly state how much of the prescribed sum has been allocated to food.
- Increased duty on the Secretary of State to ensure adequate food supply at times of crisis – including the powers to direct private parties to support food distribution.
- The creation of a new, independent regulatory body to oversee the implementation and enforcement of these new duties.
A parliamentary petition to put these recommendations into law has so far gathered 46000 signatures, with an early day motion tabled by Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne supported by 59 cross-party MP’s.
The proposals have secured the backing of community campaign groups around the country, including the Food Justice Network in Birmingham.
Kerry Lenihan, Director of Can Do 4.13 who run the Aston & Nechells Foodbank in Birmingham, said: “Foodbanks have sadly become the norm across the country; they actively form a key part of Birmingham’s day to day food provision.
“We strongly believe our submission outlines a practical and achievable route to ensure no one goes hungry”.
The Trussell Trust reported an 81% increase in emergency food parcel distribution from its food banks during the last two weeks of March 2020, compared to the same period in 2019.
A total of 23,389 parcels were distributed by Birmingham food banks in their network between 1st April and 30th September 2020.
Ian Byrne MP hopes these recommendations can end this increased reliance on food banks during the pandemic.
“The time for sticking plasters is over” he said.
“Our grassroots campaign has shown the strength of feeling in our communities for the Right to Food to be recognised in law, and our submission to the National Food Strategy contains five initial demands that could deliver it.”
Research from the Food Foundation estimates that approximately 20% of adults in the UK face food insecurity annually.
According to the Child Poverty Action Group, 4.2 million children were already living in poverty in the UK prior to the pandemic – nine children out of a class of 30.
The second part of the National Food Strategy will be published later this year, with the government committed to publishing a white paper to address the findings within six months of the report.