The government should urgently appoint a new Minster for Food Security and consult on a national ‘right to food’ in England, an influencial group of cross-party MPs has said.
In a new report, the MPs highlight that almost one in ten households had experienced food poverty during the two recent Covid-19 lockdowns, adding that the pandemic has exposed a worrying level of food insecurity in England.
The report from the House of Commons Committee on the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (EFRA) praises Government Ministers who “mobilised their departments to prevent food insecurity during the covid-19 pandemic”.
However, it says this should continue into the long-term as the country gradually emerges from the curent crisis and begins to open up the economy.
The report recommends that a new Minister for Food Security be appointed “to work cross-departmentally, ensuring that everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, have access to enough affordable nutritious food”.
“The Government must also consult on a legal ‘right to food’ and address this in its White Paper responding to the National Food Strategy, due early this summer,” the report says.
It also calls on the government to “ensure that families with children eligible for free school meals continue to be able to feed their children” in the event of a third lockdown.
And it urges Ministers to learn from the unacceptable food parcels provided by some suppliers in January, and ensure that “any future offering is consistently up to standard”.
Additionally, the Committee raised concerns that some people with disabilities, particulary those who were shielding from the virus, were unable to access online food delivery. The report calls on the government to urge compaines to drop delivery charges and minimum spend rules.
Commenting, Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said: “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.”