Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Food Poverty Has All the Signs of a 'Public Health Emergency'

Food bank use has been increasing steadily since 2005. In the period April-September 2013 alone, over 350,000 people received food from Trussell Trust food banks – triple the number helped in the same period in 2012. This increase has led the Trussell Trust to call for an inquiry into the causes of food poverty and the surge in food bank usage. A range of experts have also warned in the British Medical Journal (December 2013) that UK food poverty “has all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventive action.”   A Report to the British Parliament (Standard notes SN06657, April 10, 2014)
Anti-hunger advocates in the U.S. put our efforts into two categories: domestic hunger and poverty, and global hunger and poverty. As we continue efforts to protect and enhance nutrition programs (including SNAP and WIC), it is sometimes useful to view how other industrialized countries deal with their own "domestic hunger" problems.

The London School of Economics and Political Science has compiled a very useful set of resources related to hunger and poverty in Britain.  The site, entitled "Breadline Britain – get the facts on food banks and poverty," includes the letter from 27 bishops criticizing cuts in Britain's welfare program.  This letter was posted in the Daily Mirror and is linked with the End Hunger Fast campaign.

There are many other links documenting an increase in hunger and poverty in Britain from a wide variety of sources, including governments, church organizations and private groups like Oxfam. An interesting site is the Manchester-based Church Action on Poverty, whose mission is to "mobilise churches to work with others to overcome poverty in the UK."

Among the resources listed is Oxfam's Walking the Breadline: The Scandal of Food Poverty in 21st Century Britain, which discusses which  the evidence for food insecurity and its causes. It also contains a bibliography of other reports on the topic.

As is the case in the U.S., there is debate on both sides of the issue, resulting in heated debates between Labour and the Tories (including members of Prime Minister David Cameron's Cabinet) on the extent of the problem and how it should be addressed.

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