The United Kingdom is traditionally known as a flourishing, stable European entity serving as a popular travel destination. Despite its ranking as the fifth wealthiest country in the world, hunger in the United Kingdom is an entrenched problem and the country faces food poverty at an ever-growing rate.
Food poverty, as the Institute of Public Health defines, is “the inability to afford or have reasonable access to food which provides a healthy diet.” Income disparity is one of the major factors causing food poverty.
Low-income families can spend nearly 25 percent of their annual income on food. Upper-class families, on the other hand, may only spend about 4.2 percent on food. These low-income families are not able to buy healthy food such as fruits and vegetables at the rates they formerly could.
As a 2013 Kellogg’s report notes, “the U.K.’s poorest households…are being forced to cut back on fruits by 20 percent and vegetables by 12 percent.” Families who do spend the money on these foods push themselves further into poverty.
Prior to 2013, hunger in the United Kingdom was rarely discussed since the rates were less alarming. With the advent of the benefit sanctions, hundreds of thousands of citizens have become dependent on food banks.
The government has instituted sanctions through the bedroom tax, which states individuals living in a house with one or more open bedrooms will receive less in housing benefits. Other sanctions have forced disabled people to find work they’re capable of doing and have placed sanctions on working poor through the Universal Credit System.
The Universal Credit System works to provide low-income individuals with monthly working and housing allowances. With the government sanctions, however, these individuals are expected to find jobs, more work hours and attend training meetings. If they do not comply, they are subjected to fines.
Government regulations are crucial in combating food poverty, as the number of people living in food poverty keeps increasing. The average annual household food bill in the U.K is projected to cost £357 more by the end of 2017.
The Sustainable Food Cities and the Church Action on Poverty, both of which are British organizations, pressure the national government, as well as the local governments, communities and companies to take more action. Without government intervention, it seems very unlikely any substantial, long-lasting impact will occur.
Sustainable Food Cities incorporated its campaign “Beyond the Food Bank” to call on governments for action. The program insists that there should be conversations regarding wages, healthy food options and vouchers.
While these organizations continue to pressure the government, many charities are directly impacting the lives of those in food poverty.
Maintaining the belief that all children should have a healthy and sustainable breakfast, Kellogg’s is donating “15 million portions of cereal and snacks” to food impoverished people in the U.K. through different programs and food banks. In doing so, Kellogg’s aims to reduce the statistic that “four out of five teachers say some of their pupils are coming to school hungry.”
Kellogg’s is also responsible for partnering with large companies such as Trussell Trust to strategize ways of reducing hunger in the United Kingdom. As a team, Kellogg’s supplies cereal and healthy breakfast options to Trussell food banks, which distribute the food to individuals with vouchers.
Between 2015 and 2016, Trussell distributed 1,109,309 three-day emergency food supplies, which is 196,171 more supplies than distributed between 2013 and 2014. According to Trussell Trust chairman Christ Mould, “Every day we’re meeting mothers who are skipping meals to feed their children, or people forced to choose between paying the bills or buying food.”
In an interview with Emily Dugan, spokesperson for the End Hunger Fast and Mansfield priest Keith Hebden said, “I have never before seen religious leaders so united on an issue and I hope our collective words and prayers reach the ears of politicians who have the power to act.” With non-profit organizations, corporations and religious groups united in the cause, many hope their work and call for government action will make hunger in the United Kingdom an issue of the past.
– Kristen Guyler