Liverpool MP urges chancellor to address food poverty as millions choose between ‘freezing or starving in their homes’
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Key leaders across Liverpool have signed a letter to chancellor Rishi Sunak calling for 'systemic change' to tackle food poverty faced by 11 million people in the UK.
The letter, written by Liverpool West Derby MP Ian Byrne, was delivered to Downing Street earlier this week ahead of Mr Sunak's mini-budget on Wednesday.
The move comes as the Office for National Statistics released figures showing inflation in the UK at a 30-year high.
Mayor of Liverpool Joanne Anderson, metro mayor Steve Rotherham, Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham and 25 MPs were among the letter’s signatories.
Union leaders have also signed, along with Liverpool, Everton and Millwall FC and Churches Together.
Mr Byrne, who has been campaigning on food poverty since 2015, extended an open invitation for Mr Sunak to visit Liverpool, where he said a third of people are experiencing food insecurity.
The letter, which is part of Mr Byrne's Right to Food campaign started in 2020, has five key demands including calls for the provision of universal free school meals, funding community kitchens and a new regulatory body that will hold the Government to account through oversight and enforcement powers.
A new Right to Food campaign petition calling on the Government to make access to food a legal right has nearly hit its target of 2,500 signatures.
Mr Byrne, who was named MP of the Year at the Patchwork Foundation MP Awards earlier this month, described food poverty as a 'humanitarian crisis requiring permanent solutions'.
‘Enforceable food rights are needed’
He said: “We know that food poverty leads to health and life expectancy inequality, malnutrition, obesity and a host of other related problems, including even long-term epigenetic changes.
"It will affect children’s educational attainment and life chances. Less measurable but no less important, is the effect on individual human dignity and social cohesion over time in our polarised nations of food banks next to investment banks.
“The pandemic has demonstrated that in the face of new threats and challenges, society is only as resilient as its most vulnerable and its mechanisms for caring for everyone.
"Enforceable food rights are needed so that Government is accountable for ensuring that nobody goes hungry – and is prevented from making decisions that lead to people being unable to put a meal on the table."
The Government response
A Government spokesperson said: “We recognise the pressures people are facing with the cost of living, which is why we’re providing support worth £21 billion this financial year and next to help.
"This includes putting an average of £1,000 more per year into the pockets of working families via changes to Universal Credit, freezing fuel duties to keep costs down and helping households with their energy bills through our £9.1 billion Energy Bills Rebate.
“We have also expanded access to free school meals more than any other government in recent decades and our upcoming Government Food Strategy will pave the way to ensuring a healthier, more sustainable, resilient, and accessible food system that levels up our country.”