‘Hungry for Change’ – Fabian Commission’s final report on food and poverty

4 November 2015

The Fabian Commission has published its final report on food and poverty which sets out how a fairer food system, which works for those on low incomes, can be delivered.

The report, which has drawn on a range of different avenues of expert opinion within the UK, has “uncovered a crisis of food access” for many individuals and families in the UK whose household budgets have been pushed to breaking point by the cost of living.

The Commission has found that numerous barriers have led to many individuals living in a state of ‘household food insecurity’ – when they are not able to consumer an adequate quality or quantity of food via socially acceptable ways or the uncertainty that they are able to do so. The report also found that a lack of official measurement has prevented accurate estimates of the amount of people who have been affected by household food insecurity in the UK, which serves as a further barrier to addressing the cause and symptoms of this problem.

As a result, the Commission produced a plan for how the government can address these barriers and encourage a food system which will reduce and eventually end household food insecurity.

Firstly, the Commission proposed five essential principles which government action should be based upon:

1. Everyone in the UK should have secure access to nutritious, sustainable food they can afford, and nobody should live in a state of household food insecurity.

2. Food banks and other forms of charitable food provision should become unnecessary by 2020.

3. Decent work is the best way of achieving sustainable food security for most households, but the social security system also has an important role to play for many both in and out of work.

4. The links between low income and diet-related ill health should be broken.

5. People on low incomes should be protected from price rises and other potential negative consequences arising from the essential action needed to address the long-term environmental, health and workforce challenges of the food system.

With these principles in mind, the Commission recommended a fourteen point plan which will help the government, regulators and local authorities limit the spread of household food security in the UK. These include:

• A new cross-departmental minister with responsibility for eliminating household food insecurity in the UK
• Action to reduce acute household food insecurity caused by social security benefit sanctions, delays and errors
• An inquiry to identify effective ways of removing poverty premiums for key living costs including food, utilities, housing, household appliances, and transport
• Local authorities establish food access plans that will address any physical barriers to affordable, nutritious food in their area
• The UK government should index working-age social security benefit upratings to the inflation experience of low-income households