A group of MPs want the government to introduce a minister for hunger to respond to a growth in food insecurity in the UK – especially among children.1

The Environmental Audit Committee highlighted UNICEF figures showing 19% of children under 15 in the UK live with adults who struggle to buy food.2 It says ministers have failed to recognise and respond to the problem.

The committee wants to see the appointment of a new minister with "responsibility and accountability for combating hunger and food insecurity within the UK".

The report also suggests a close relationship between hunger and obesity. "Insufficient access to food may lead to risk-averse purchasing habits and prioritisation of low-priced, filling foods with long shelf lives – which are often nutrient-poor but calorie-rich," the report says.

Labour MP Mary Creagh, who is chairwoman of the committee, said more children are growing up in homes where parents do not have enough money to put food on the table.

"The combination of high living costs, stagnating wages and, often, the roll-out of Universal Credit and the wider benefits system means that levels of hunger in Britain are some of the highest across Europe.

“This can only be addressed by setting clear UK-wide targets and by appointing a minister for hunger to deliver them."

Emma Revie, chief executive of The Trussell Trust, which runs more than 420 food banks across the UK, welcomed the idea of a “hunger minister”.

"It's time for the government to take concrete steps towards a UK where everyone has enough money for food," she said.

Poor diet and cancer risk

One of our Cancer Prevention Recommendations is to limit consumption of ‘fast foods’ (such as chips and fried chicken) and other processed foods high in fat, starches or sugars (such as chocolate, crisps and biscuits). This is because there is strong evidence that diets containing greater amounts of these foods promote weight gain, overweight and obesity.3 One of the biggest risk factors for cancer is being overweight or obese, with our research showing that overweight and obesity increase the risk of 12 types of cancer, including bowel, breast and liver.4 This is one of the reasons why it is so important to make healthy food accessible and affordable to all.

Healthy eating, healthy wallet

Read our tips for healthy eating on a budget.

References

1. BBC. MPs want hunger minister role introduced. 2019. 

2. UNICEF. Prevalence and correlates of food insecurity among children across the globe. 2017.

3. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report. Diet, nutrition and physical activity: Energy balance and body fatness. 2018.

4. World Cancer Research Fund/American Institute for Cancer Research. Continuous Update Project Expert Report. Body fatness and weight gain and the risk of cancer. 2018.