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Chair raises 'pressing challenges' faced by those struggling to access food

20 May 2020

The Chair of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, Neil Parish MP, has today written to the DEFRA Secretary of State George Eustice, raising areas of urgent concern arising from its ongoing inquiry into COVID-19 and food supply.

The letter, which follows the Committee's evidence session on the impact of the pandemic on the elderly; people with disabilities; and on food banks last Friday, draws attention to three key areas that it urges the Government to consider immediately:

  • The considerable increase in demand for food aid from those facing financial distress as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, including an 122% rise in demand from families with children compared to the same period in 2019. The Committee will be closely scrutinising the Government's response to this pressing issue.
  • A pilot project which aims to divert high quality, fresh food wasted at the farm gate to food charities. The letter emphasises the considerable benefit such a scheme could bring to society and the environment, and calls for DEFRA to share its evaluation of the pilot.
  • The plight of vulnerable groups struggling to access food during the pandemic. The evidence received by the Committee suggests that charities, retailers and national and local government need to come together to form sustainable strategies allowing these groups to regain independence and ensure access to healthy food.

Chair's comments

Chair of the EFRA Select Committee, Neil Parish MP, said:

"For many, accessing fresh and healthy food has become a cause for great anxiety, second only to the virus itself. The EFRA Committee's own public survey, as well the eye-opening evidence we heard last week, have shown the real urgency of this problem. Many people have been made financially vulnerable by the coronavirus, or else robbed of their independence; they deserve urgent attention. Our inquiry continues, but it is vital to raise these very pressing issues now, whilst something can still be done to alleviate the difficulties of what is for many people, a grim reality."

Further information

Image: PA