PM has turned his back on food poverty pledge

By Laurence Gibbons

- Last updated on GMT

David Cameron has abandoned his food poverty pledge
David Cameron has abandoned his food poverty pledge

Related tags Poverty

The UK government has been accused of turning its back on its promise of an ‘all-out assault’ on food poverty to prevent hungry people relying on food banks.

Prime Minister David Cameron had abandoned his pledge to stop people depending on food banks, which he promised before the General Election in May, political think-tank the Fabian Society claimed.

“David Cameron has made an admirable commitment to tackling poverty,”​ said Fabian Society chair Geoff Tansey.

“But for food, people’s most basic need, he currently has no means of achieving this aim and no plan to deliver a reduction in food banks, let alone tackle the other links between food and poverty.”

The Conservative government has no record of the number of people who currently lacked secure access to nutritious and affordable food, Tansey added.

Year-long study

His claims came following a year-long study on food and poverty by the Fabian Society along with a panel of experts. Researchers included the dinner lady who inspired Jamie Oliver’s School Meals campaign, a senior public health doctor, a food industry specialist and a trade union official.

They agreed with the prime minister that food banks should not exist and called for the government to work towards their elimination by 2020. 

Food costs are likely to increase in order to tackle climate change, improve people’s diets, and end poverty and exploitation in the food workforce and supply chain, Fabian Society claimed.

Tansey said work needed to be done to prevent people living in fear of not being able to feed themselves or their family.

14 recommendations

This included a 14-step plan for how the government could create a food system that worked for people on and near the breadline.

Recommendations included a pilot tax on sugary drinks; a review of current advertising codes; a cross-departmental minister with responsibility for eliminating household food insecurity in the UK and action to reduce acute household food insecurity caused by social security benefit sanctions, delays and errors.

To see all 14 steps, scroll down to the bottom of the article.

Jeanette Orrey MBE, the former dinner lady who inspired Oliver’s campaign on school meals, said the campaign had undoubtedly improved levels of nutrition for many children.

“But too many are still being left behind,”​ she said. “We need to redouble our efforts to ensure that everyone has access to nutritious and affordable food.”

Fabian Society 14-step plan

1. Appoint a cross-departmental minister for eliminating household food insecurity

2. The minister should take responsibility for the duty of UK nations to respect, protect and fulfil the right to food, while civil society organisations should form an alliance to monitor government compliance

3. Introduce of robust measures of the extent of household food insecurity in the UK

4. The environment secretary should broaden the focus of the 25 year plan for food and farming

5. UK government, regulators, consumer bodies and people in poverty, should launch an inquiry into the poverty premium, and work with businesses to remove poverty premiums for key living costs

6. UK government should index working-age social security benefit up ratings to the inflation experience of low-income households

7. The Department for Work and Pensions should expedite action to reduce acute household food insecurity caused by social security benefit sanctions, delays and errors

8. Local authorities should establish food access plans that identify physical barriers to affordable, nutritious food and develop an action plan to overcome them

9. UK government should rule out future cuts to existing public health schemes and budgets

10. The Department of Health (DoH) should launch a joint review of both broadcast and non-broadcast advertising codes with the aim of protecting children from the marketing of unhealthy food and drink products

11. DoH, Treasury and devolved governments should consider piloting a sugary drinks duty to allow policy makers to make informed decisions as to whether further taxes should be introduced in order to improve diets and health outcomes

12. UK governments should set long-term goals of bringing everybody up to a minimum socially acceptable level of income

13. UK government should proceed with raising the national living wage to 60% of median wages over future years, while taking an active approach to building coverage of the voluntary living wage

14. UK government should re-establish the link between social security and a subsistence level by linking universal credit to the minimum income standard

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