THE DEPARTMENT of Environment and Rural Affairs (Defra) has published the findings from research on the use of food aid in the UK.
Defra commissioned researchers from the University of Warwick and Food Ethics Council to carry out a Rapid Evidence Assessment in February to March 2013 to help improve understanding of the ‘food aid’ landscape in the UK. In particular, the review addressed who might be asking for such help, as well as how and why they do so.
The findings show that the use of food banks in the UK was often a ‘last resort’ for families, and is likely to be the result of social issues rather than the increased availability of food banks nationally.
Despite the research showing an increased reliance by families on food aid and insistence from those working on the paper that the numbers shown were likely to be underestimates due to the lack of systematic evidence to work from, the findings have only recently been published and no action has been taken by the government to redress the problems outlined in the report.
Dan Crossley, Executive Director, the Food Ethics Council said: “The evidence indicates that informal food aid in the UK does not address the underlying drivers behind people being unable to afford to eat, and to eat healthily. Food banks – and other types of food aid provision – are intended to be an emergency, short-term response and not a long-term solution. We need additional research, but we also need urgent action – from all sides – to address the root causes of food poverty.”
Dr Eric Jensen, Associate Professor, in the Department of Sociology at the University of Warwick said: “The peer-reviewed literature makes clear the need for systematic interventions by government to relieve long-term suffering from food poverty and insecurity. The best available evidence suggests that thousands of people in Britain, who don’t know whether they can meet basic food needs for themselves and their loved ones, will continue to face this terrible chronic stress without such interventions”.