New Report: Government has gathered momentum to act on food security, but must now find 'impetus'
7 April 2021
Government Ministers mobilised their departments to prevent food insecurity during the covid-19 pandemic, but the impetus to do so must be sustained as the country re-opens.
- Read the report | PDF version
- Inquiry: COVID-19 and food supply: follow up
- Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
In a new report, the House of Commons EFRA Committee highlight the almost 1 in 10 households who have, during the two most recent national lockdowns, experienced food poverty, and again urge the Government to appoint a new Minster for Food Security and consult on a national 'right to food' in England.
The follow-up report examines the six months following the publication of the Committee's July 2020 Covid-19 and Food Supply report. Jointly addressing food insecurity and the food supply chain, in particular as the hospitality industry re-opens, the Committee recommend:
- With the number of people experiencing food insecurity likely to have worsened as a result of lockdowns, the Government should conduct an annual food security report, sustaining this frequency until the combined economic fallout of covid-19 and Brexit has passed.
- A new Minister for Food Security should be appointed to work cross-departmentally, ensuring that everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, have access to enough affordable nutritious food. The Government must also consult on a legal 'right to food' and address this in its White Paper responding to the National Food Strategy, due early this summer.
- In the event of another lockdown, the Government should ensure that families with children eligible for free school meals continue to be able to feed their children. The report also calls on the Government to learn from the unacceptable food parcels provided by some suppliers in January , and ensure that 'any future offering is consistently up to standard'.
- The Government must call on retailers to 'recognise their responsibility' to assist clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people who are shielding to access food, including the removal of delivery charges and minimum online spends for them. The report also raises concerns about people with disabilities who are unable to access online food delivery, recommending that Government ensures they receive the assistance they need. Retailers must also ensure that efforts to make their stores “covid secure” do not exclude people with disabilities.
- The Government should provide ongoing support to charities working to distribute surplus food from the farm gate to frontline food aid providers.
- In anticipation of hospitality reopening on April 12th, the Government must urgently recognise the impact of the sector's closure on its suppliers. Additional financial support should be provided to hospitality suppliers, particularly small businesses, during the period of reopening.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said:
"During the covid crisis, different Government departments pulled together to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society were fed. This should set a precedent. We have a duty to ensure that access to enough nutritious food is a fundamental right for everyone in the UK, which is why, for the second time in a year, our Committee urge the Government to appoint a new Minister specifically to address food security.
"The Government must now learn lessons from the pandemic, using the teething problems it encountered in distributing food to ensure that, in 'normal times', disadvantaged groups- such as those without internet access- do not slip between the cracks.
"It also has a responsibility to support businesses right the way through the food supply chain. As hospitality opens up from next Monday, additional financial support must be provided to its suppliers, else the funding rightly given to pubs, restaurants and cafes to get them through the lockdown will be wasted."