The House of Commons’ cross-party EFRA Committee has today published a report highlighting that almost 1 in 10 households have experienced food poverty during the two most recent lockdowns. The Committee notes that the Government’s reaction to the pandemic demonstrated its ability to address food insecurity, and so should set a precedent.
Following the first lockdown, the EFRA Committee gathered evidence – including from School Food Matters – and published its first report on ‘COVID-19 and food supply’ in July 2020. That report made recommendations including improvements to the Free School Meal Voucher Scheme. Since two further lockdowns have followed, the Committee carried out a follow-up inquiry in early 2021, focused on food insecurity for individuals and the food supply chain.
The latest inquiry has uncovered evidence that echoes what we have seen over the course of the pandemic; food insecurity has worsened. The report notes from the Trussell Trust that there was ‘a 122% increase in the number of children receiving food through food banks’, compared to in 2019.
In light of this, the EFRA Committee has made a series of recommendations to the Government, including urging them to appoint a Minister for Food Security and to consult on a ‘right to food’. The report also recommends that, if another lockdown happens, the Government should ensure schools have multiple options to ensure free school meals continue to be provided to those eligible. This follows scrutiny of the national voucher scheme and the serious concerns raised about the standard of some food parcels. A flexible solution will allow schools to provide the most appropriate provision for their children.
The report records the Committee's ‘unreserved thanks to all the key workers in the food supply chain’. The Government now has two months to respond to the report.