London should take a Zero Hunger approach to food poverty
London Labour Assembly Member Fiona Twycross penned an open letter to members of her party, encouraging them to work towards a Zero Hunger policy approach to food security. That letter is excerpted below, with permission.
Food bank use rises 400% in just two years
In the past two years, reliance on food banks in London has risen by almost 400% as people struggle to make ends meet and as welfare changes and austerity hit home. Most people, particularly families, are not yet feeling the benefit of economic recovery.
In 2011-12 there were 12,839 visits to Trussell Trust food banks in London. This has increased to 63,367 in the first nine months of the current financial year – including 24,500 children. This is simply unacceptable. London is the sixth wealthiest city in the world. The extent of hunger, particularly among our children, is a national embarrassment.
It is not only the destitute who are struggling to buy food. A report I published today on food poverty and free school meals in London reveals that 65% of Londoners are worried about increases in food prices, rising to a staggering 78% among parents responding to City Hall Labour’s cost of living survey.
Adopting a Zero Hunger approach to food poverty
At City Hall, I continue to challenge the Mayor on his failure to deliver on tackling the rise of food poverty. He refuses to visit a food bank and hear direct from food bank clients and volunteers about why people end up in desperate need. The London Food Board, which reports to the Mayor, is doing everything it can to co-ordinate an effective response to hunger in London. However, just a few months after he has signed up to the Zero Hunger goal as part of his 2020 Vision, Boris Johnson has cut the budget allocated to the Food Team working to achieve this goal.
Policies that provide a solution not a sticking plaster
Since completing my investigation, in to food poverty in London last year, I have been working with the London Food Board, faith groups and charities to identify ways to tackle food poverty. I have spoken to a number of London boroughs about translating the concept of a Zero Hunger city to borough level. Looking at how you can use link workers, how you can work in schools and how you can work within communities to work towards the elimination of hunger, towards zero hunger boroughs.
Eliminating the need for food banks
The UN has warned that we could end up with a situation in which we cannot reverse the growth of food banks and a future in which they become a formal or informal part of our welfare system as they already are in North America.
The Labour Party must go in to the next election pledging a zero hunger approach to food insecurity. We need a permanent solution, not a temporary fix. We must reverse and eliminate the need for food banks in Britain and here in London. Foodbanks are a powerful and humane response to seeing hunger in our communities. However, as a political party, our response must be be to fight the causes of hunger and extreme poverty. We have to see an end to hunger and we should use a Zero Hunger test on our policies on welfare, pay and in the way we address poverty through a range of measures including on school food, high interest lenders, getting people in to work and rolling out the living wage.
This post does not reflect the views or opinion of the Zero Hunger Challenge, and does not imply endorsement by the United Nations.