That was the overarching message that was communicated to an audience at a seminar discussion hosted by the independent think tank in London.
‘What does the right to food mean in practice?’ This was asked and answered by representatives from Scotland, Brazil and India.
In the UK there is much debate as to the progress being made by public authorities in protecting the most disadvantaged households from food insecurity.
This debate has been extended internationally as the UK has been particularly vocal about the benefits of good nutrition during pregnancy and the early years of life.
Tackling malnutrition in the first 1000 days of life has been shown to benefit individuals in the long-term. However, preventing malnutrition requires investment in evidence-based interventions, cross-government leadership and action.
Food Foundation focus
Executive director of the Food Foundation and chair of the seminar Anna Taylor said: “What resonates for me is the trade-offs between laws, which test out principles vs. the specifics, which result in loss of implementation with the former. You may lose the ability to tackle structural problems with the latter.”
“Another critical issue is the role society plays. How do we get to the point where you have a collective narrative, which is politically compelling and is able to drive change?”
“That is the big challenge in the UK. We have large groups of civil society mobilising to try to tackle the problem of food poverty to create a national campaign.”
Malnutrition, including both undernutrition and overweight/obesity, affects more than one in two people on the planet, representing a global challenge that affects all countries of the world.
Presenting issues that were closer to home was Elli Kontorravdis, policy and campaigns officer from Nourish Scotland, a sustainable food trust that advocates a stronger food culture to make healthy, local, seasonal and organic food more available.
Elli presented Nourish Scotland’s recent report submitted to the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights on the right to food as part of the UN’s 6th period review of the UK.
“We found that from a small sample, around 10% of people are food insecure,” she said.
However, if we’re looking at the relative poverty line, which in the UK is defined as individuals who fall under 60% of the median income, we start to record figures of 21%, who are food insecure.”
“When we conducted an analysis of the cost of living, we then get very close to 30% of the people in the UK who cannot afford a basic basket of food.”
Kontorravdis also spoke about the ‘substantial failings’ of the right to food. Here, she believed there had been regression from progress made in previous committee reviews that ensured access to basic food was available to everyone.
“More people in the UK are more food insecure than they were in 2009. The austerity measures have had a disproportionate impact on certain people in our population.”
The issue of whether the UK was ready for this narrative was discussed in depth. The structural and racial inequalities in determining the right to adequate food and nutrition were mentioned.
“Regardless of urban, rural rich, poor, there are people in all four corners of our country who are experiencing hunger,” said Andrew Forsey, head of parliamentary office for Frank Field MP, who was appearing as a guest panellist at the seminar.
“There is potential for a large-scale movement and local action. We are currently applying pressure on local authorities on issues such as providing cooking facilities in private rental accommodation.”
“Other local initiatives include identifying and enrolling children for free school meals, which resulted in additional funding to cater the needs of these children.”