Create a Food Security Minister and enshrine in law the ‘right to food’, MPs say

MPs on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee say Government has gathered momentum to act on food security, but must now find 'impetus'.

09/04/21

Create a Food Security Minister and enshrine in law the ‘right to food’, MPs say

A new report from the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has recommended that the Government should appoint a new Minister for Food Security.

The report found that Government Ministers mobilised their departments to prevent food insecurity during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the impetus to do so must be sustained as the country re-opens.

“Although there have been failings, Ministers have mobilised their departments to support vulnerable people’s access to food during the pandemic, giving a sense of what would be possible if the issue was prioritised in normal times,” the report read.

“Therefore, we reiterate our previous recommendations that a Minister for Food Security is created to maintain this momentum after the pandemic. This Minister needs to be supported by robust cross-Government structures to ensure that all interested departments prioritise the issue of food insecurity.”

The report analysed the six months following the committee’s previous COVID-19 and Food Supply report, released in July 2020, highlighting that almost 1 in 10 households have experienced food poverty during the two most recent national lockdowns.

Conceding that enshrining principles to law is not a ‘silver bullet’, the committee also recommended that the Government consult on a legal ‘right to food’ and address this in its White Paper responding to the National Food Strategy, due early this summer.

“Giving the ‘right to food’ a legislative footing would drive action on food insecurity across Whitehall and Government,” the committee said.

In the event of another lockdown, the Government should ensure that families with children eligible for free school meals continue to be able to feed their children, the report warned.

MPs also called on the Government to learn from the “unacceptable” food parcels provided by some suppliers in January, and ensure that “any future offering is consistently up to standard”.

Also recommended was for retailers to “recognise their responsibility” to assist clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people who are shielding to access food, including the removal of delivery charges and minimum online spends for them.

Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said the Government must learn lessons from the pandemic.

“During the covid crisis, different Government departments pulled together to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society were fed. This should set a precedent. We have a duty to ensure that access to enough nutritious food is a fundamental right for everyone in the UK, which is why, for the second time in a year, our Committee urge the Government to appoint a new Minister specifically to address food security.

“The Government must now learn lessons from the pandemic, using the teething problems it encountered in distributing food to ensure that, in 'normal times', disadvantaged groups- such as those without internet access- do not slip between the cracks.”

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