This year’s annual Labour Party conference has been eventful to say the least, and not always for the right reasons, but an important announcement that could potentilly eradicate hunger in the UK has been largely unreported in the mainstream media.
While the media were fixated on the Party’s Brexit stance and supposed dissent within the ranks, Labour unveiled what may prove be one of its most significant policies that it hopes will help some of the most poorest and vulnerable people in society.
Labour announced that, once in government, they would set a target of ending the need for food banks altogether within its first three years in office, requiring different food security measures to be taken across several local and central government departments.
Much of this reduction would happen within the first year, during which time Labour says they would halve food bank usage by addressing many of the root causes.
Labour blame the relentless rise in food bank usage on years of welfare cuts, the introduction of Universal Credit, delays to benefit payments and punitive benefit sanctions – all of which they have promised to address if they win the next general election.
The latest figures from the Trussell Trust food bank network show that 1.6 million food parcels were handed out to people in need in the last year.
The charity pointed its figure firmly at Universal Credit, calling on the government to “end the [five week] wait for Universal Credit to ease the pressure on thousands of households”.
And The Food Foundation estimates that 4 million children in Britain are now at risk of malnutrition as a result of living in poverty.
During their Conference, Labour pledged to guarantee that everyone in the UK has a ‘Right to Food’ by enshrining it in UK law, in a new ‘Fair Food Act’.
This new law will create a ‘National Food Commission’ to monitor food insecurity, make recommendations to government and oversee all aspects of the food system in Britain.
Furthermore, Labour will introduce a £6m ‘Access to Food Fund’, which will be responsible for the development of local community food plans in the 50 most food deprived areas of the country.
Labour’s Shadow Food and Environment Secretary, Sue Hayman MP, said: “In the world’s sixth richest country, it is a scandal that people are going hungry.
“This government’s mean-spirited welfare policies and failure to think differently that has brought the situation to crisis point. Climate change and a reckless No Deal Brexit threaten to make the issue of food insecurity even worse.
“Food is a basic human right. The next Labour government will introduce a Right to Food in a Fair Food Act. We will make sure no one in the country needs to go hungry.
“We will kick start our efforts to build secure, community-based local food system with a £6m Access to Food Fund, initially targeted at the areas of the country with the highest levels of food insecurity.”