PLANO, Texas — British citizens are eager for life to go back to what it was before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, statistics indicate that long before the pandemic came about, food insecurity was a growing issue in the U.K. The Bennett Institute for Public Policy Cambridge finds that close to one in four adults in the U.K. experienced food insecurity in 2017. Those affected by food insecurity often turn to food banks for assistance. However, food banks are widely stigmatized. Furthermore, although food bank assistance may fulfill some immediate needs for the impoverished, it can also “undermine peoples’ rights, entitlements and cultural basis of support.” Singer-songwriter Liam Payne promotes food banks like the Trussel Trust in order to fight food insecurity in the U.K.
Combatting Social Stigma
Trussell Trust, one of the largest food bank networks in the United Kingdom, recently released a moving video to address a prevalent social issue. The video illustrates the difficulties of dealing with food insecurity in order to combat the stigma of food bank usage. The video also features a poem entitled “Acceptable?” that was written by a distraught mother. The poem tells the tale of the mother’s struggle to feed her children while facing judgment for resorting to food bank assistance.
Celebrities, such as former One Direction member Liam Payne, spoke out in support of the video’s message. Payne described the footage as “incredibly moving.” Payne is also an avid supporter of the Trussell Trust network. In March 2020, the musician’s donation to the charity helped supply more than 360,000 meals for three months.
Food Shortages in the UK
Before the pandemic, the prominence of food disparities and the extensive use of food banks in the U.K. were primarily ascribed to the Coalition government’s £30 billion cutbacks to “working-age social security” in 2010. The effects of the cutbacks have revealed weaknesses within the U.K. food system, such as reliance on last-minute food supply chains.
It is also worth noting that the U.K. imports 48% of its food, with fruits accounting for 84% of imports and vegetables accounting for 46%. Due to the country’s dependency on imported food, supermarkets could not meet the demand of panic buying during the early stages of the pandemic. This resulted in food shortages that further exacerbated food insecurity for low-income families.
How Trussell Trust Makes a Difference
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) projects that the U.K.’s unemployment rate will expand “from 4.8% in the first quarter of 2021” to 6.1% by the end of 2021. Reports also show that food banks in the U.K. have already seen a substantial increase in demand for food due to unanticipated unemployment and decreased income.
However, the Trussell Trust food bank network is leading the way in easing the burdens of disadvantaged households. In 2020, the charity provided an unprecedented 2.5 million emergency food packages to families in need. A little less than one million of the food packages prioritized children, which equates to close to “two parcels for children every minute.”
Currently, food insecurity solutions rely primarily upon emergency food assistance programs such as food banks. In an article by Mirror, Liam Payne states that “Food banks in the Trussell Trust’s network do incredible work to help people most in need of support and it’s vital that we get help to people in crisis today but we must also work together toward a hunger-free future.” While food banks in the U.K. strive to alleviate malnutrition and hunger, the British government must also work toward long-term solutions such as raising income levels so that more citizens can afford a well-balanced diet.
– Tiara Tyson