As the economic downturn takes effect, increasing numbers of Londoners are turning to charities and relying on free school meals because they cannot access or afford decent food. What more can be done to support people struggling to feed themselves and their families?
The London Assembly Health and Environment Committee today launches an investigation into tackling food poverty in the capital, led by Fiona Twycross AM.
While it is hard to gather precise data on the total number of people in food poverty, the experiences of London’s charities point to a serious problem.
Just last year, one charity’s foodbanks fed almost 15,000 people in the capital. Kids Company – a charity working with vulnerable young people – reports that 37 per cent of 5-12 year olds at three of their centres claim there is not enough food for them to eat at home every day.
A significant proportion of young people are affected by food poverty with almost a third of London’s school children registered for free school meals.
Low incomes and high food prices can make it difficult to afford enough healthy food, but non-financial barriers like not having the skills to prepare healthy food, not having access to cooking facilities, or having trouble accessing food because of mobility issues also have an impact.
The investigation will look at the scale and health implications of the issue, existing emergency support for people already in need, as well as broader measures to address the risk factors for food poverty.
Fiona Twycross AM, Member of the Health and Environment Committee, said:
“Food poverty in modern Britain and in London is a scandal. What kind of society have we become if people have to turn to charity just to get enough food to survive? It appears that many people who are turning to food banks are working but still can’t afford to buy enough food for their families.
“There are also serious health implications arising from food poverty as not eating a healthy diet can contribute to diabetes, heart disease and rickets.
“Charities do a wonderful job but we need to look at what steps could be taken by the Mayor and partner organisations to help lift London families out of food poverty.”
As part of the review, the Committee is asking for your views on food poverty and solutions to the problem - Please email firstname.lastname@example.org
The closing date for submissions is 5 November 2012.
The Committee will publish a report of its findings early next year.
Notes for editors:
- The Department of Health defines food poverty as “the inability to afford, or to have access to, food to make up a healthy diet.”
- Figure provided by Trussell Trust, July 2012
- Plate Pledge Questionnaire – A survey of the diet and eating habits of 102 children and young people attending Kids Company. February 2012
- Annual survey of take up of school lunches in England, School Food Trust, July 2012
- Read a news release from Trussel Trust, April 2012
- The terms of reference for the investigation are:
- To investigate the scale and causes of food poverty in London.
- To consider what the Mayor and partners can do to support people suffering food poverty in London.
- To consider what the Mayor and partners can do to address the risk factors of food poverty.
7. Read more about the investigation and how to contribute.
8. Fiona Twycross AM, Member of the Health and Environment Committee, is available for interview. See contact details below.
9. As well as investigating issues that matter to Londoners, the London Assembly acts as a check and a balance on the Mayor.
For more details, please contact Lisa Moore in the Assembly Media Office on 020 7983 4228/4283. For out of hours media enquiries please call 0207 983 4000 and ask for the Assembly duty press officer. Non-media enquiries should be directed to the Public Liaison Unit, Greater London Authority, on 020 7983 4100.