A coalition of national and local charities, anti-poverty organisations and faith groups yesterday met in Yorkshire to call on the country’s leaders to act now to end the “outrage” of hunger in the UK.
The End Hunger UK coalition called for a Government-led plan across all departments to tackle the causes of food insecurity and to free millions of people from hunger over the next decade.
Representatives of the coalition and people with personal experience of food insecurity gathered at Sheffield Cathedral to call for immediate action.
Organisers also wrote to the leaders of all the major parties at Westminster demanding that the country to act now to meet the UK’s 2015 pledge to end hunger by 2030.
Campaigners said the problem was not that Britain has a shortage of food as one of the wealthiest nations in the world, it was that widening inequality meant many people simply do not have the money to buy it which was “simply not right”.
Dr Pete Wilcox, Bishop of Sheffield, said though he was proud of the charities and food banks that feed people, it was time to do something about hunger.
He said: “It is an outrage that in our United Kingdom (one of the most prosperous nations on earth — one of the most prosperous nations in history), hundreds of thousands of people every week live in food poverty, unable to feed themselves in a way that is healthy and reliable and which does not involve making fundamental choices between food and clothing, food and fuel, food and shelter.
“It is a mark of the civilisation of a society, how well it provides for its most vulnerable and deprived communities.”
Niall Cooper, chair of End Hunger UK, said: “The UK has no shortage of food. The problem is one of incomes – too many working and non-working households are being hamstrung by insufficient wages and a benefits system that does not cover people’s essential costs. Charitable emergency food provision has proliferated in the UK in the past decade and large numbers of people have been forced to turn to food aid providers. In the sixth wealthiest nation on the planet, this is simply not right.
“Politicians must listen to the experiences and insights of people who have been caught in a rising tide of poverty and debt, and the national target must be to halve household food insecurity by 2025, as a step to ending it by 2030.”
The event in the city centre included a choir of people from Gleadless Valley Food Bank in Sheffield. Choir leader Yo Tozer-Loft said: “I have been coming here for four years, and have seen how people’s lives have changed. It’s a very supportive community, but more needs to be done nationally to prevent hunger.”
In the past two years, nearly 20,000 people and 150 organisations have taken part in campaigns around hunger during school holidays, Universal Credit, and discovering the true level of hidden hunger in the UK.
As a result of the campaigns, the Government provided nearly £9m this year for school holiday and activity pilot programmes, is introducing annual measurement of household food insecurity, and as part of the 2018 budget agreed to spend an extra £1.7bn to address some of the most glaring problems associated with the roll-out of Universal Credit.
Events were also held at a Welsh castle, Salisbury Cathedral, the Peterloo Monument in Manchester, an orchard in Cornwall, King’s Cross Station and Tower Bridge in London.