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Food Poverty: an update on the Holiday Hunger Bill 01/02/2018, Health & Lifestyle

Two weeks ago, Frank Field MP’s Holiday Hunger Bill – that I had supported at the Houses of Parliament last year - had its second reading. The Bill would give local authorities the legal duty and resources to ensure children have access to free food and fun activities in the school holidays; with money raised from the sugar levy. I was disappointed to hear that the government opposed it at second reading.

That said, the government did commit to a programme of pilot projects and research into how best to ensure more children from disadvantaged families benefit from meals and activities during the holidays. I understand that Bristol East MP Kerry McCarthy will be finding out how the pilot areas are selected, to see if it’s possible for Bristol to apply.

There has also been an inquiry into food poverty in the elderly, published by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger.  It shouldn’t be acceptable for a single person to be in food poverty in the UK – the fifth richest country on earth. But the reality is more than 1 million elderly people in Britain are malnourished in 2018.

A full copy of ‘Hidden Hunger and Malnutrition in the elderly’ is available here. It makes for distressing reading describing elderly people “withering away in their own homes” as a result of malnutrition caused by social isolation and cuts to public services, such as Meals on Wheels and social care packages.

“Malnutrition arises when a person’s body does not gain the nutrients it needs to function properly. Older people are particularly at risk of becoming malnourished, due to a range of unique medical, physical, and social reasons.”

Whilst it may seem grotesque to put a financial cost to food poverty, it’s important because it is this data that should enable the government to calculate the cost benefit of investing in interventions to reduce food poverty versus spending the money on something else. The cost of the health and social care costs associated with the symptoms of malnutrition amongst older people is estimated to be £11.9 billion and this sum is forecast to increase to £13 billion by 2020, and to £15.7 billion by 2030.

Part of our purpose here at fresh-range is to develop food security for generations to come. So, in addition to developing short, light and fast supply chains from local farmers, fishermen makers and bakers into our cities, we have been working for over a year now with a fantastic charity called Community at 67 who make a wonderful difference for local people. Fresh-range donate fresh produce that can be used in meals for elderly people in the local area who may not otherwise have the opportunity to leave their homes and socialise. The charity brings isolated people together around a good hearty meal cooked by fabulous volunteers.

I am continuing to work with the Feeding Bristol Steering Group. The group is in the process of developing an action plan around five strategic priorities to address urgent needs for food whilst laying the foundations to sustainably address the causes of food poverty in the longer term.

Rich Osborn, founder & CEO, fresh-range