Food poverty in one of the world’s wealthiest countries

Image by
By Yousif Farah

According to the UN World Food Programme, hunger is a major killer, with more fatalities than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined. One might assume that food shortages and hunger are confined to developing countries in Africa or Asia. However, the reality is much closer to home. Increasingly, scores of people across the UK go to bed without having a decent meal.

October 16 is World Food Day. Set up by the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations in 1945, World Food Day sets out to raise awareness of the problem of hunger across the world, and bring about solutions to tackle it on a global, national and local scale.

In the UK, most of us take food for granted. However, following an unsteady period in our nation’s economy, the use of food banks has increased exponentially in recent years.

According to the Trussel Trust, the body responsible for running most food banks in the country, in 2013-14 food banks fed 913,138 people nationwide. These figures are just a snapshot of hunger in the UK as it does not include people who are too ashamed to use food banks and others who are cutting the size of meals.

Some 83% of food banks reported that benefits sanctions - when payments are temporarily stopped - had resulted in more people being referred for emergency food.  More than 30% of visits were put down to a delay in welfare payments. The second biggest reason, given by 20% of food bank users, was low income.

"We're often surprised by the length of sanctions people get," said Liza Cucco, the manager of the Hackney Foodbank.

Andy, a 47 year-old local unemployed electrician, visited the Hackney Food Bank when his benefits were stopped he says:

"If I didn't come here, there wouldn't be any food for me tonight. It's the system. But I don't understand why there's a gap," Andy was sent away with two shopping bags of pasta, rice, vegetables, biscuits and juice.

But food banks are not the only organisations tackling hunger in London. The London Food Board has interviewed hundreds of parents and children across London to assess the impact of hunger on their lives. Mayor of London Boris Johnson has set out to make London a Zero Hunger city by 2020. There is also a web tool – The London Food Map – to help those experiencing food poverty to find out where and how to access free or low-cost food.

Poached Creative is a London-based social enterprise that provides journalism training to homeless and marginalised people.

No comments:

Post a Comment