London must become a Zero Hunger city to combat rising food poverty, says new Assembly report

Published on Wednesday, 27 March 2013 10:36
Posted by Vicki Mitchem

Despite London being one of the richest cities in the world, thousands of people in the capital – including school children and older people – are going hungry. 

And, a new report from the London Assembly today warns the problem is set to escalate over the coming months.

In 2009 the largest chain of food banks ran just six in London; today there are 40 serving food to 34,000 people including many who, despite working, are simply not earning enough to cover food and bills. The report says food banks risk being overwhelmed in the near future as the economic downturn persists and living costs rise.

The report calls on the Mayor and his London Food Board to take a strategic lead on tackling food poverty with the aim of turning London into a Zero Hunger city. It says there should be a more coherent approach to emergency measures such as food banks and better long-term support for those at risk of food poverty.

It recommends measures, including:

  • Working with partners to establish sustainable free breakfast clubs in schools
  • Lobbying the government to agree eligibility for free healthy school meals for all families in receipt of Universal Credit, with the London Food Board asked to identify models for providing universal healthy free school meals for all children across the capital
  • Monitoring risk factors for food poverty, including welfare reform
  • Ensuring any response to food poverty helps all groups, including older people
  • Food poverty action plans led by Borough Health and Wellbeing Boards and a link worker in all London boroughs
  • Schools having a plan to identify and address hunger throughout the school day and to support families in food poverty

Fiona Twycross AM, who led the investigation on behalf of the Assembly's Health and Environment Committee, said: "It is shocking to think that in one of the richest cities in the world, there are thousands of Londoners going hungry.

"Food poverty is affecting people all across the city - young and old, people in low paid jobs and on benefits. This has alarming consequences because children who are hungry struggle to fulfil their potential, while elderly people can develop malnutrition.

"It is unacceptable to have Londoners relying on food bank donations to feed their children or stay out of hospital. This is a significant problem that needs long-term commitment and solutions and the Mayor and his team need to act now to turn this problem around and stamp out hunger in London."

The report sets out the potential impact of food poverty on Londoners, including poor physical and mental health heart disease, diabetes, low birth weights and poor child development.

The capital's children are particularly at risk of food poverty, as London has the highest rate of child poverty – almost 40 per cent or 590,000 children - after housing costs are taken into account. The Committee's survey of teachers found that more than 95 per cent of teachers reported some children arriving at school hungry and over 60 per cent had given pupils food at their own expense.

Older people are also affected - two thirds of older people's organisations surveyed for the investigation said older people were finding it harder to afford enough healthy food.

The report says pressure on community meals services is increasing the risk of food poverty among older people and calls for them to be protected to prevent high costs to the NHS when people become malnourished.

Source: London.gov

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