Food emergency in UK as poverty and benefit cuts hit home

Wed, 04/12/2013 - 17:40 -- nick

Food poverty has grown in the UK to a point of national health emergency - and benefit cuts are to blame.

Writing in the British Medical Journal, the scientists and public health experts said the rise in starvation and food bank use bore the hallmarks of a national medical emergency.

In a letter the group points the finger at the government's benefit cuts, citing evidence from the UK's biggest food bank provider the Trussell Trust:

“Against a backdrop of rising food prices, figures from the Trussell Trust show an exponential rise in the number of people being issued food bank vouchers by frontline care professionals.”

“This has all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventive action.”

Both working and workless people have suffered benefit cuts, but the unemployed have seen the worst of them, including an overall cap on the maximum they can receive, housing benefit cuts, the bedroom tax and cuts in the value of all benefits.

The group is headed by Medical Research Council health scientist David Taylor-Robinson and includes respected people from the University of Liverpool, University College London’s Institute of Child Health and the public health department at Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.

UnemployedNet has written of the importance of the government publishing its research into the use of food banks, which it has been sitting on since June, and the letter echoes this:

“Because the Government has delayed the publication of research it commissioned into the rise in emergency food aid in the UK, we can only speculate that the cause is related to the rising cost of living and increasingly austere welfare reforms,” it said.

Shamingly UK hospitals have seen rises in admissions for malnutrition, and young people are experiencing this more than most, a fact recognised by the experts:

“Malnutrition in children is particularly worrying because exposures during sensitive periods can have lifelong effects, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and other adult chronic diseases.

“Access to an adequate food supply is the most basic of human needs and rights. We should not allow food poverty in the UK to be the next public health emergency.”

A government spokesman denied that there was a "robust" link between benefit cuts and food bank use despite the Trussell Trust showing that nearly half of all its users were referred for this reason.

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