The government should appoint a new Minister for Hunger to tackle issues of hunger, malnutrition and obesity, an influential group of MPs has said.
The Environmental Audit Committee accused the government of letting issues of hunger “fall between the cracks” and failing to make the link between obesity and food insecurity in its childhood obesity strategy.
The charges were levelled in a new report which assessed the government’s commitment to deliver UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2: Zero Hunger, along with the UK’s wider progress against implementation of the SDGs.
It found that levels of food insecurity in the UK are among the worst in Europe, especially for children, with 19% of under 15s living with an adult who is moderately or severely food insecure.
The report detailed how food insecurity can lead to both malnutrition and obesity, with many people forced to rely on cheap, nutrient-poor but calorie-rich foods. It noted, however, that food insecurity is entirely absent from the government’s official strategy for tackling obesity.
Committee members called for the appointment of a new Minister for Hunger to work across government departments and civil society to implement strategies to improve understanding of food insecurity and to take action and monitor progress. They also recommended that new targets for ending hunger, food insecurity and malnutrition in all its forms are set.
“The combination of high living costs, stagnating wages and often the rollout of Universal Credit and the wider benefits system, means that levels of hunger in Britain are some of the highest across Europe,” said chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, Mary Creagh. “Instead of seeing hunger as an issue abroad, the Government’s New Year resolution should be one of taking urgent action at home to tackle hunger and malnutrition. This can only be addressed by setting clear UK-wide targets and by appointing a Minister for Hunger to deliver them.”