Sustain / Food Poverty

Taking action

Government, councils, health bodies and other statutory agencies should play a central role in reducing food poverty in the UK.

This should complement the role of the voluntary and community sector. Action by government, councils and others should address the root causes of food poverty and avoid unreasonable demands being placed on charities, faith organisations, volunteers and others responding to local need. 

The Right to Food

Everyone has the right to enjoy safe, nutritious and sustainable food. Sustain is working with Just Fair, Nourish Scotland and the Institute for Health and Society at the University of Newcastle to advocate for  the realisation of the Right to Food in UK law. This would place legal obligations on government and service providers to be accountable for taking action to prevent food poverty and reduce hunger, working towards a time when nobody goes hungry.


We work with the End Hunger UK campaign and the wider food poverty sector to call on the UK and devolved governments to do their part to address the root causes of food poverty and ensure public policy reduces rather than exacerbates food poverty. This work includes our call for national measurement of household food insecurity, to help provide the data and motivation to enable effective action.

Councils and other local statutory bodies

Alongside this national-level action, we also encourage local authorities to to address the root causes of food poverty within their powers and responsibilities. This includes, for example, increasing uptake of Healthy Start vouchers, signing up to and promoting the Living Wage, providing or supporting meals on wheels services or reducing the Council Tax burden on poorer households.  We have prioritised ten areas where councils can make the most difference.  

Cross-sector food poverty action plans

Sustain works with a wide range of local alliances and networks to develop strategic responses to food poverty through our Food Power programme, London Food Poverty Campaign and the Sustainable Food Cities network. Our short guide to developing food poverty action plans offers advice on drafting and delivering local food poverty action or similar plans. We've also brought together a collection of food poverty action plans and needs assessments that have been published in different areas across the UK.

Support for networks and partnerships

Both Food Power and Sustainable Food Cities work with partnerships and networks to support local responses to food poverty. These programmes also provide examples of action that has been taken by cross-sector partnerships and networks from around the UK.

Campaigns on specific issues

Several Sustain projects also work to promote healthy diets for everyone, often benefiting people living on a low income and/or those who frequently access public services. These include:

  • The Campaign for Better Hospital Food, working to improve food standards in NHS hospitals, especially to help older and vulnerable people, many of whom are malnourished
  • The Children’s Food Campaign, campaigning for free school meals, controls on marketing of unhealthy food and improved promotion of healthy food, and initiatives to address holiday hunger, to help children from low-income families to eat well
  • Our Food Co-ops network, working with the National Union of Students and others to support more people to work together to buy good food at an affordable price
  • The Campaign for Sustainable Farming, which includes supporting fair trade for farmers and better pay and working conditions for agricultural workers, many of whom also experience very low income and household food insecurity
  • Our new programme on the Right to Food [LINK], exploring a new legislative framework that would clearly identify who needs to take action, and hold them to account for doing so, to enable the UK to live up to its international pledge to end hunger, as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals

Food Poverty: Over 8 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. Sustain is working with communities, third-sector organisations, local authorities and government, aiming to make sure everyone can eat well.

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Sustain advocates food and agriculture policies and practices that enhance the health and welfare of people and animals, improve the working and living environment, promote equity and enrich society and culture.

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