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Sustain campaign win! UK Government agrees to measure household food insecurity

As of April 2019 the Government will be measuring household food insecurity nationally. Read Sustain's comment.

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

From April 2019, the Government’s Department for Work and Pensions will start including ten standard questions on household food insecurity into the UK’s Family Resources Survey. This will help inform policy making and fulfil the Government commitment to end hunger in the UK. Sustain welcomes this important step, after years of campaigning with our alliance members for authoritative measurement of food poverty.

The Sustain alliance, Food Foundation, Oxfam GB and the Food Research Collaboration, and more recently the End Hunger UK alliance, have long been vocal supporters of national measurement of household food insecurity, as a natural first step towards ending hunger in the UK.

For decades, efforts to ensure that people do not go hungry have been hampered by selective and sometimes combative use of statistics about the extent and depth of food poverty in the UK.

The lack of routine monitoring of household food insecurity has contributed to, for example, elderly and housebound people falling through the social safety net. In 2014 services were provided by two thirds or top tier authorities, but by 2018 this had declined to less than half (42%) of councils.

Meanwhile, in 2018, emergency food banks run by the Trussell Trust network received a record more than one million referrals for emergency food aid, for people experiencing financial crisis, with Government only now admitting that Universal Credit can be linked to the rise in food bank use.

Kath Dalmeny, CEO of the Sustain alliance said:

“For decades, decision-makers have been arguing about how many of our fellow citizens have insufficient income to be able to afford the food they need. Without reliable data monitoring, the impact of cuts to social services such as meals on wheels and the welfare safety net have gone largely invisible to the public, leaving vulnerable people suffering without being able to hold anyone to account.”

“It has been all too easy for politicians to dismiss data painstakingly provided so far by academics and voluntary groups such as the Independent Food Aid Network, resulting in denial, prevarication and unacceptable delays in addressing the shocking fact that hundreds of thousands of people in the UK go hungry each year. Better data will shine the spotlight on the extent and causes of food poverty, prompting the requirement for living wages, sufficient welfare payments, and decent social services that guarantee that all vulnerable people can eat well."

Imogen Richmond-Bishop, who coordinates the Right to Food campaign said:

“It is welcome news that standardised and authoritative data, accepted by government no matter how uncomfortable the message, will now reveal the true extent of food poverty problems in the UK.

“Measuring household food insecurity is the first vital step towards being able to hold decision-makers to account for their actions to uphold or thwart our fundamental right to be able to enjoy an adequate supply of fresh, healthy and affordable food.”

The Government’s Family Resources Survey is an annual survey, covering all four nations, with a sample of 20,000 households. Data will be gathered over the course of a year and reported a year later. So household food insecurity data collection will begin in April 2019 and be reported on before March 2021.


Read Sustain’s 2018 submission of evidence to a parliamentary Select Committee inquiry into the UK Government’s progress on achieving the Sustainable Development Goal: Zero Hunger, in which we argued for a national measure of household food insecurity.

Watch Sustain CEO Kath Dalmeny providing oral evidence to the Environmental Audit Committee on behalf of End Hunger UK

Read our 2016 briefing ‘Measuring household food insecurity in the UK’, co-authored by Sustain, the Food Foundation and the University of Oxford

Read our 2016 briefing ‘Time to count the hungry: The case for a standard measure of household food insecurity in the UK’, co-authored by the Economic and Social Research Council, Food Research Collaboration, the Food Foundation, Oxfam GB, Sustain and the University of Oxvord

Published Wednesday 27 February 2019

Food Poverty: Millions of people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. We’re working to change that through people-powered projects and campaigns that tackle the root causes of food poverty and ensure everyone has dignified access to healthy, affordable food.

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