Source: Labour List UK
The Labour Party has called for urgent action to be taken by the government to address the shocking recent increase in food poverty linked to the coronavirus crisis.
The Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) has revealed that the number of food parcels issued across 147 of its food banks increased by an average of nearly 60% between February 20th and March 20th.
The Trussell Trust has reported that the Covid-19 period has been its busiest ever, with 81% more emergency food parcels being supplied compared to the same period last year.
The Food Foundation published a report earlier this month that said 1.5 million people had gone an entire day without eating since the start of the coronavirus lockdown.
“There is more than enough food in our supply chains to make sure that everyone has enough to eat. This is now not a crisis of food supply, it’s a crisis of poverty,” Labour’s Luke Pollard commented.
The Shadow Defra Secretary said people “do not have enough money to buy the food they need”. Of those facing food insecurity, 21% didn’t have enough money to buy adequate supplies according to the Food Foundation.
Shadow cabinet member Jonathan Reynolds has called on the government to “introduce additional support through social security to prevent families slipping into further hardship”.
“Food banks are doing an incredible job in tough circumstances with unprecedented demand, but the government should be ensuring that people have the resources they need to stop their families going hungry.”
The Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary added: “Support through the job retention scheme and for the self-employed is welcome but has come too late for those already struggling to put food on the table.”
Concerns have been raised by Labour over the free school meals voucher programme in particular, after parents and teachers said there were major problems with it.
As Labour MP Siobhain McDonagh previously highlighted in a letter signed by 70 MPs, vouchers are only redeemable at specific supermarkets – such as Waitrose and Marks and Spencer, rather than the cheaper options of Lidl and the Co-op.
Tulip Siddiq, Labour’s shadow minister for children and early years, said: “Free school meals are not something that children can afford to wait a few weeks for. The school meal is often the only proper meal a child has all day.
“It is not a luxury item, it’s a necessity for the millions of children who are living in poverty in this country. It is therefore extremely concerning that parents are being made to wait many weeks to receive their free school meal vouchers.”