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hunger in the united kingdomThe United Kingdom (U.K.), which includes England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, is home to 32 recognized UNESCO World Heritage Sites, like Stonehenge. In addition, the British Library in London is the largest library in the world. However, the United Kingdom struggles with high levels of hunger and food insecurity compared to its European neighbors. In 2018 and 2019 alone, food banks distributed an estimated 3 million parcels of food. Here are 10 facts about hunger in the United Kingdom.

10 Facts About Hunger in the United Kingdom

  1. According to the Evidence and Network on U.K. Household Food Security, 10% U.K. adults live in marginally food insecure households. Another 10% live with moderate or severe food insecurity. Marginal food insecurity indicates concern about one’s ability to access food. However, moderate food insecurity includes compromises and limitations in food quality and variety. It may also include skipping meals and reducing food intake and quantity. Individuals experiencing severe food insecurity often go hungry.
  2. Many children in the U.K. also face food insecurity. UNICEF estimated in 2017 that 19% of children under the age of 15 live with someone who faces moderate or severe food insecurity. Furthermore, 10% of children live with severely food-insecure people.
  3. On a global scale, hunger in the United Kingdom may seem low. UNICEF reports that an 41% of children live in a moderately or severely food-insecure household. However, compared to food insecurity levels in the E.U., the U.K. ranks poorly. Hunger in the United Kingdom puts it fourth among E.U. nations, behind Romania, Bulgaria and Lithuania.
  4. People in the U.K. are spending more on food while eating less. In 2012, the poorest 10% of U.K. households spent approximately a quarter of their income on food and non-alcoholic drinks. In contrast, the wealthiest 10% of households spent 4.2% of their income on the same supplies.
  5. Food waste feeds hunger in the United Kingdom. The U.K.’s food waste in 2018 amounted to approximately 9.5 million tons. However, 70% of the wasted food was edible. Only a minuscule amount of this waste went to charities or animal feed. Efforts to prevent food waste therefore remain critical in the fight to end hunger in the United Kingdom.
  6. The need for emergency food supplies in the U.K. is increasing. The Trussell Trust, a U.K. nonprofit whose mission is to stop poverty and hunger in the U.K., distributed 1.6 million three-day emergency food supplies from April 2018 to March 2019. Approximately 577,618 of the emergency food supplies went to children. Further, the amount of food distributed marks an 18.8% increase from the previous year.
  7. The U.K. participates in the U.N.’s effort to tackle poverty through The Sustainable Development Goals. The U.N.’s agenda also includes ending hunger by 2030. Nonetheless, a 2018 report released by the U.K. Stakeholders for Sustainable Development (UKSSD) states, “While there is an enormous amount to celebrate, the most vulnerable places and people in our society are increasingly left behind.” Challenges include food insecurity, rising obesity and malnutrition.
  8. The U.K. agreed to measure food insecurity in the Family Resources Survey, which measures U.K. poverty statistics annually. Data collection from 20,000 surveyed households began in April 2019 and will come out in April 2021. Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, said, “We’ve known for too long now that a disturbing number of people in the U.K. don’t have access to enough nutritious food, but our knowledge has been too patchy to identify real solutions. But this new national measurement of food insecurity is a massive step forward and will provide essential foundations for the response we so urgently need.”
  9. U.K. nonprofit FareShare is helping overcome hunger in the U.K. It does so by redistributing surplus food to charities that then turn the food into meals for community members. So far, the organization’s 1,500 volunteers have redistributed 24,074 tons of food to charities. This is an estimated 14.1 million pounds of food.  Importantly, this is enough to help 10,962 charities and community groups. Overall, the organization has provided 57.3 million meals to people facing food insecurity.
  10. End Hunger U.K., a coalition of 40 organizations, is also working to end poverty and hunger in the United Kindgom. This organization encouraged the U.K. government to fund school programs and holiday food. In 2020, the government invested up to 11.8 million pounds to support families facing food insecurity and provide children with healthy breakfasts. This investment will add up to 650 schools to the National School Breakfast Programme, which provides breakfast delivery grants and healthy food deliveries to schools across the U.K.

Moving Forward

In the past five years, the U.K. government has taken important steps to help end hunger in the United Kingdom. Furthermore, organizations like FareShare and End Hunger U.K. remain central change-makers on the local and national level. Government actors and organizations together provide hope that they can end hunger in the United Kingdom sooner rather than later.

– Zoe Engels
Photo: Flickr

Fighting Hunger in the United Kingdom
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

Photo: Flickr