Supplementary Written Evidence Submitted by the Food Foundation (FS0098)

March 2023


About The Food Foundation:

We are a young, dynamic, and impactful charity with a mission to change food policy and business practice to ensure everyone, across the UK, can afford and access a healthy diet supplied by a sustainable food system. We are independent of all political parties and business. We work with others who believe there is a problem with the system and want to change it.   


The Food Foundation submitted written evidence to the EFRA Committee for its current inquiry on Food Security in September 2022.  Anna Taylor, Executive Director of The Food Foundation, subsequently gave oral evidence to the Committee in November 2022.  We now welcome the opportunity to provide supplementary written evidence in response to the oral evidence provided by Minister Mark Spencer to the Committee in January 2023.

We respond below to a number of the Minister’s comments.


The Minister suggested that consumers should shop around in order to manage food price rises.

-          We do not agree that encouraging consumers to shop around is a sufficient response from the Government to current levels of food price inflation.

-          Research from Which? for their Priority Places Index shows that many areas of the UK are poorly served by retailers, limiting consumers' ability to choose between alternatives.[1]. The ‘priority places’ identified on the index tend to have no large supermarkets nearby and poor access to online shopping deliveries.  In the North-East of England almost half (45%) of local areas are priority places.

-          The Association of Convenience Stores have shown that 41% of rural convenience stores are the only store in the vicinity.[2]

-          Even where consumers do have several food retail options available, we know that food prices have risen during the cost of living crisis in all major supermarkets and in all food categories.[3],[4]

-          Food Foundation research has found that the poorest fifth of UK households would need to spend 43% of their disposable income on food to meet the cost of the Government-recommended healthy diet (the Eatwell Guide).[5]

-          We have also shown, in collaboration with the University of Cambridge’s MRC Epidemiology Unit, that more healthy foods are nearly three times as expensive per calorie on average as less healthy foods.[6]

The Minister suggested that the government should introduce educational initiatives to support food insecure households, including educating people on how to reduce food waste and improving cooking skills.

-          Educational initiatives may be helpful but are unlikely to be sufficient in isolation.

-          Data from the Government's Food and You survey suggests that people in the lowest income groups are more likely to cook at least once per day compared to higher income groups.[7]

-          Research from Canada has shown that adults in food insecure households do not have lower food preparation skills than those in food secure households.[8]

-          The primary driver of food insecurity is a mismatch between household income and the cost of food and other essentials. 

The Minister said that the number of households in food poverty has reduced.

-          We believe that the Minister was referring to the reduction in headline food insecurity rates seen in the 2020/21 Family Resources Survey in comparison to the 2019/20 Family Resources Survey. 

-          Our analysis of the Family Resources Survey has shown that levels of food insecurity amongst households in receipt of Universal Credit did fall substantially (by 37%) between 2019/20 and 2020/21.  During this period the Government was providing a £20 uplift to the weekly rate of Universal Credit.  Food insecurity rates did not fall amongst those in receipt of housing benefit, who did not receive the uplift.

-          The £20 uplift was removed in late 2021 and since then the cost-of-living crisis has deepenedData from the Family Resources Survey for the 2021/22 period was published on 23rd March 2023, and shows food insecurity rates rising again amongst those in receipt of Universal Credit

-          Our own survey data suggests that food insecurity has risen steeply alongside the deepening cost of living crisis, with rates now double what they were this time last year.[9]

-          The Food Standards Agency also includes questions on food insecurity in their Food and You 2 Survey.  Their latest survey (covering Apr-Jul 2022) found that 20% of households in England, Wales and Northern Ireland are food insecure – the highest reported levels of food insecurity since they began tracking in 2020.[10]

The Minister stated that addressing hunger was a shared cross-government responsibility.

-          Though we would agree with the Minister that the policy levers which could be used to reduce food insecurity levels are spread across multiple government departments, we are concerned that there is not currently a lead department with overall responsibility for food insecurity

-          The result of this is a lack of focus and ambition in the government’s response to this challenge, and a siloed approach in which some of the departments holding major potential levers for change (e.g. the Department for Work and Pensions) do not currently see it as their responsibility to use those levers to their maximum potential.

The Minister suggested that a sugar and salt reformulation tax, such as the one proposed by Henry Dimbleby in the National Food Strategy, was unnecessary – and pointed to the progress that has already being made in reformulating crisps and sugary drinks.

-          We agree with the Minister that a huge amount of welcome innovation has occurred within the soft drinks category, but the Minister failed to acknowledge the crucial role that the Soft Drinks Industry Levy (a tax measure) has played in driving this progressSDIL has been a very successful policy – resulting in extensive reformulation without negative economic impacts. In February 2019 (less that 1 year after the levy came into force), the proportion of drinks within scope of the levy that were over the lower levy sugar threshold of 5g/100ml had fallen by 33.8 percentage points[11]. Overall the percentage change in sales weighted average sugar was down 46% from 2015, and the total sugar purchased per household from drinks subject to the SDIL decreased across all socioeconomic groups (28-38.4% reduction)[12]. This reformulation occurred without long-term negative impacts on the economic performance of soft drinks companies. This was the case for both stock market performance[13] and domestic turnover.[14]  The volume of sugar purchased through soft drinks has fallen, whilst sales of drinks subject to the SDIL increased between 2015 and 2020 by 21.3%.[15]

-          By contrast, the voluntary Sugar Reduction Programme which ran from 2015-2020 has achieved much more modest levels of reformulation. The programme asked industry to reduce sugar in key categories that contribute to children’s sugar intake by 20% by 2020. The final progress report which was published in Dec 2022 showed that the programme achieved just a 3.5% reduction in the sales weighted average total sugar per 100g in the products in scope[16]Reductions in some categories (especially yoghurts and cereals) were more substantial, but still failed to meet the 20% target.

-          Many food manufacturers want to continue making their products healthier, but they require mandatory measures to be put in place in order to give them the confidence to invest in product innovation and to drive progress at paceWithout such protections, progressive manufacturers are concerned that they will lose market share to competitors.

The Minister suggested that tackling obesity was a matter of ensuring that consumers are educated about the impacts of their food choices



The Food Foundation’s policy priorities:

To ensure that everyone can eat well during the cost of living crisis, The Food Foundation is calling for the Government to focus on measures which increase incomes and strengthen nutritional safety nets.  This includes:

To stop the junk food escalation and create an environment in which it is easier for all of us to make healthy choices, The Food Foundation is calling for the Government to fully implement all of the policies in the existing obesity strategy, and to enable Local Authorities and the food industry to take action. This includes:












[11] Scarborough P, Adhikari V, Harrington R, et al. The impact of the announcement and implementation of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy on sugar content of soft drinks in the UK, 2015-18: controlled interrupted time series analysis. PLoS Med 2020;17(2):e1003025.


[13] 3. Law C, Cornelsen L, Adams J, et al. An analysis of the stock market reaction to the announcements of the UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy. Econ Hum Biol 2020;38:100834. doi: 10.1016/j.ehb.2019.100834 [published Online First: 2020/02/23]

[14] Law C, Cornelsen L, Adams J, et al. The impact of UK Soft Drinks Industry Levy on manufacturers’ domestic turnover. Econ Hum Biol 2020.




[18] Theis, D & White, M (2021) Is Obesity Policy in England Fit for Purpose? Analysis of Government Strategies and Policies, 1992–2020

[19] House of Commons Library (2022) Obesity Statistics