Tuesday 24 September 2019 / 10:24 AM Sue Hayman

A Right to Food: Labour will halve food bank usage within a year

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, will today (Tuesday) announce that the next Labour government will halve food bank usage within its first year of office.

Labour will set a target of ending the need for food banks altogether within its first three years, requiring different food security measures to be taken across several local and central government departments.

Food insecurity has soared in Britain since Labour left office in 2010. There are now 2,000 food banks across the UK.

Last year, a record 1.6m emergency food parcels were distributed by the Trussell Trust.

The Food Foundation estimates that 4 million children in Britain are now at risk of malnutrition as a result of living in poverty.

Brexit and climate change both threaten even more insecurity to our national food systems.

Labour will ensure that everyone in the UK has a Right to Food by enshrining it in UK law, in a new Fair Food Act. The new law will create a National Food Commission to monitor food insecurity, make recommendations to governments and oversee all aspects of the food system in Britain.

A £6m Access to Food Fund will be established to kick start the development of local community food plans in the 50 most food deprived areas of the country.

Locally developed community food plans would help to improve community based local food systems. Plans could establish local food markets, community gardens, community shops and kitchens, or to improve allotment management and educate or train local people on healthy diets, household food management or food cultivation skills.

The main reasons for referrals to food banks are changes made to the benefit system, delays to benefit payments and punitive benefit sanctions.  The food-specific work will complement Labour’s commitments to benefits reform and income enhancing measures, for paid and unpaid workers and for those seeking or unable to work.

Sue Hayman MP, Labour’s Shadow Food and Environment Secretary, said:

“In the world’s sixth richest country, it is a scandal that people are going hungry.

“This government’s mean-spirited welfare policies and failure to think differently that has brought the situation to crisis point. Climate change and a reckless No Deal Brexit threaten to make the issue of food insecurity even worse.

“Food is a basic human right. The next Labour government will introduce a Right to Food in a Fair Food Act.

“We will make sure no one in the country needs to go hungry.

“We will kick start our efforts to build secure, community-based local food system with a £6m Access to Food Fund, initially targeted at the areas of the country with the highest levels of food insecurity.”


Notes to Editors

Food Banks in Britain

End Year Data and Statistics, Trussell Trust https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/

2,000 food banks across the UK

House of Commons Library Briefing Paper Number 8585, 23 July 2019 https://researchbriefings.files.parliament.uk/documents/CBP-8585/CBP-8585.pdf

1.6m emergency food parcels distributed

The Trussell Trust https://www.trusselltrust.org/2019/04/25/record-1-6m-food-bank-parcels/

4 million children in poverty at risk of malnutrition

The Food Foundation https://www.theguardian.com/society/2018/sep/05/four-million-uk-children-too-poor-to-have-a-healthy-diet-study-finds

Brexit threat to food security

UK Government No Deal Brexit Planning: ‘Operation Yellowhammer’


Climate threat to food security

RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission: Our Future in the Land

p.10 “land degradation together with climate breakdown is predicted to reduce crop yields by an average of 10% by 2050 and up to 50% in some regions, increasing levels of malnutrition”


A Right to Food

International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights https://www.ohchr.org/EN/ProfessionalInterest/Pages/CESCR.aspx

UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)

https://sustainabledevelopment.un.org/sdg2 which define and elaborate the social right to food

NOTE: UK is a Contracting Party to international conventions which define the right to food including ICESR and UN SDG

UK is not upholding the right to food

Environmental Audit Committee: SDG Voluntary National Review


Reasons for referrals to food banks

Causes of referral to food banks, Trussell Trust https://www.trusselltrust.org/2018/11/06/action-still-needed-universal-credit-wait/

Benefit sanctions linked to food banks, Oxford University https://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/oct/27/benefit-sanctions-food-banks-oxford-university-study

Examples of Labour’s welfare and income policies

Details of all previously announced and separately costed policies are here: https://labour.org.uk/category/latest/press-release/

Establish a Real Living Wage: to end in-work poverty

Provide Additional Benefit Funding: to create a new social security system that will genuinely lift people out of poverty and add £2m additional funding to Universal Credit

Uprate the Carers Allowance: to help the 35 per cent of unpaid carers currently living in poverty, increasing the annual income of eligible unpaid carers by £300.

Increase ESA: to help more people who are ill or disabled are able to live independently with an additional £30pw to meet inevitable extra costs

Scrapping the Bereavement Support Payment reforms: to ensure that families who are grieving after losing a partner or parent are not faced with additional costs

Restore benefits for housing costs for 18-21 year olds: to reverse Conservative cuts to the household budgets of low-income young people

Introduce Rent Controls: which will give tenants the security of three year tenancies and protection from above-inflation rent rises

Scrapping the Bedroom Tax: which indiscriminately punishes social housing tenants

Provide more social housing: which will mean Labour will build 100,000 new genuinely affordable homes to rent and buy a year by 2022

Bring Energy Companies into Public Ownership: reducing household energy bills by an estimated average £120 pa

Bring Water Companies into Public Ownership: reducing household water bills by an estimated average £100 pa

Introduce free bus travel for under 25s: helping eligible young people save up to £1000 per year, with greatest impact on low income households

Bringing Work Capability Assessments in house: to ensure that assessments of the support that people who are ill or disabled are accurate

Ending Punitive Benefit Sanctions: to help create a social security system that supports people in time of need and to remove one of the most common causes of recourse to food banks

Food Systems and Hunger: Background

APPG on Hunger: Strategy


APPG on Hunger: Evidence


Environmental Audit Committee: Our World, Our Health (Food Systems)


A Fair Food Act

The next Labour government will present a Fair Food Bill to Parliament which, among other measures, will:

  • Establish in UK Law a Right to Food
  • Set out a framework of co-operation for the UK government and the devolved national governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland and also between central government and local government
  • Introduce effective administrative and judicial remedies for violations of the right to food
  • Create a National Food Commission to:
    • monitor hunger and food insecurity in Britain
    • make recommendations for system changes
    • co-ordinate and advise corrective actions, across government and other agencies
    • support the development of local, community based food plan
  • Codify our six-point plan for improved rights and working conditions for workers in the food and agriculture sector, including:
    • Trade union access and representation
    • Collective bargaining and the Agricultural Wages Board
    • Health and Safety Executive inspection standards

An Access to Food Fund

A Fund to initiate and strengthen community-based local food systems: The fund will allow local projects, authorities and community organisations to bid for financial support to develop local initiatives which will help to develop collaborative community food plans with a focus on specific criteria which will include (but not be limited to):

  • support sustainable local food infrastructure (e.g. supply chain, market or local distribution initiatives)
  • provide access to healthy, affordable food (e.g. allotment growing, community gardens, community shops, community kitchens)
  • educate and train people on healthy diets
  • help people and communities learn the skills of growing foods

The fund will be targeted at the 50 areas of greatest food insecurity in England and it will be reviewed within two years, with a view to adaptation and improvement before nationwide roll-out.

The development of collaborative community food plans is a key recommendation of RSA Food Farming and Countryside Commission final report, “Our Future in the Land”