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'Stop food waste and speed up benefits payments to end UK hunger,' say MPs and church in foodbank report

MPs and church join forced for foodbank report Credit: PA

A new inquiry into the "unprecedented" numbers of people use of food banks in Britain is calling on the Government to take action to eliminate food poverty by 2020.

The Feeding Britain report, funded by the Church of England and backed by politicians from across Parliament, said that more than 4 million tonnes of edible food is binned every year by the UK food industry - with just 2% donated to charity.

Many people use food banks during "unimaginable" waits for benefit claims to be processed, or when they are left without an income for weeks or months because of benefit sanctions, said the report.

It found that the proportion of poorer households' incomes required for housing costs, utilities and food has risen from 31% to 40% between 2003 and 2012.

Supermarkets throw away more than 4 million tonnes of a food a year, the report found Credit: PA

It called for an end to "rip-off" deals that penalise poorer households unable to settle bills by direct debit or pay for services in advance and impose massive interest rates on emergency loans.

In order to prevent a court-directed eviction for rent arrears or a court order to cut off their utility supplies, many families go without food and therefore see food banks as reintroducing that buffer in their finances which many have lost.

– Feeding Britain report

The report said the Government should take a "co-ordinated response" to reduce hunger, including:

  • Ensuring schools take action on children arriving in the morning unfed
  • Increasing wages at the bottom towards the living wage level
  • Aiming to deliver all benefits within five days of a claim
  • Giving claimants a "yellow card" warning before imposing sanctions

There are now around 1,500 emergency food assistance providers, including 800 food banks, the All-Party Parliamentary Inquiry into Hunger in the UK found.

Co-chair of the report, Labour MP Frank Field, said: "I would love there to be a welfare state where no one went hungry. At the end of the day, I doubt whether in the course of the next Parliament we are actually going to be able to achieve that, sadly."

There are now around 1,500 emergency food assistance providers in Britain Credit: PA

The report calls for a national organisation called Feeding Britain to drive a campaign to end hunger 12 pilot projects covering each region of the UK.

The organisation would:

  • Increase the amount of "surplus" food donated to the hungry
  • Push for more speedy and responsive handling of benefit claims
  • Jelp food banks offer wider support such as debt advice
  • Ensure good food is available affordably throughout the country
  • Help poorer households learn cooking, budgeting and parenting skills

A Cabinet Office spokesman said: "This report is a serious contribution to an important debate, with many good ideas, and recognising that the reasons behind demands for emergency food assistance are complex and frequently overlapping.

"As a country we have enough food to go around, and we agree that it is wrong that anyone should go hungry at the same time as surplus food is going to waste. There is a moral argument as well as a sustainability one to ensure we make the best use of resources."

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