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What is the bigger picture of child hunger in the UK?

We need more than an emergency response; we need a long-term exit strategy that recognises the root causes of poverty.

It is essential that this strategy involves the legal recognition of the right to food in domestic law, and adequate protection of related rights including social security and financial assistance. 

Child hunger 

Nearly two million children went hungry this year. According to the Social Market Foundation, 16% of parents surveyed said their children had been forced to make do with smaller portions, skip meals or go a day without eating between March and September 2020. “The idea of a single child going short of food is heartbreaking, but our evidence shows that almost two million children have been in that awful situation this year” said SMF chief economist Aveek Bhattacharya.

The idea of a single child going short of food is heartbreaking, but our evidence shows that almost two million children have been in that awful situation this year” 

SMF chief economist Aveek Bhattacharya 

Food banks 

Food bank usage is increasing at an alarming rate. According to the Independent Food Aid Network’s (IFAN) latest figures426,958 3-day emergency food parcels were given out over February to October 2020 – this represents an 88% increase compared to the same period in 2019. The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic is exacerbating the level of food insecurity. The Trussel Trust’s network of 1393 food banks distributed more than 1.2 million food parcels between April and September. With a devastating economic downturn expected, a long-term response to widespread hunger is needed.  

The bigger picture 

I can’t stop thinking about what the bigger picture looks like” says Marcus Rashford, England men’s footballer who forced the UK Government’s policy U-turns on free school meals, and brought to public attention the child-led campaign to end child food poverty.  What might this bigger picture involve?  

I can’t stop thinking about what the bigger picture looks like” 

Marcus Rashford

An exit-strategy  

The right to food is protected in the UK by the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). The Convention on the Rights of the Child  (CRC) also reiterates the UK’s responsibility to ensure all children have an adequate standard of living including the right to food. This right is interconnected with other rights such as health and education.  

While the UK has ratified the ICESCR, the UK Government has not enshrined in domestic law. This means that the right to food cannot be legally enforced in UK courts. 

Nevertheless, hunger is a human rights violation that the UK Government has an obligation to address, using the maximum resources it has available to ensure that all children can access a nutritious diet and fulfil their potential in life.  

A human rights-based response to food insecurity involves addressing and dealing with the root causes of poverty, so that all people can enjoy their rights and live their lives to the full. 

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Get in touch with Just Fair’s Campaigns and Advocacy Lead, Misha Nayak-Oliver

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