Food Supply and Security - Motion to Consider

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 2:47 pm on 14th May 2020.

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Photo of Baroness Tyler of Enfield Baroness Tyler of Enfield Liberal Democrat 2:47 pm, 14th May 2020

My Lords, as we have heard, food security is a global issue as well as a national and local one. The Covid crisis has exposed the fragility of global supply chains and the importance of investing in resilient supply chains to help meet future global shocks. At the local level, councils have been working hard supporting vulnerable people to access food throughout the pandemic, and we have heard a lot about supermarkets but should not overlook the essential role of local shops, providing an estimated 600,000 deliveries per week in their communities.

Food insecurity has become a way of life for far too many of our fellow citizens. The Food Foundation estimates that 8 million adults have experienced food insecurity since the start of lockdown, 5 million people in the UK households with children were experiencing food insecurity after just one month, and more than 200,000 children have had to skip meals. Prior to the pandemic, a significant minority of households were struggling to access healthy food and were relying on food banks and other community-based food projects. The Trussell Trust estimates an 80% increase in the number of people supported by emergency food parcels in its network compared with last year. Food banks have had to make changes to the way in which they work to stay open and stay safe while coping with a large increase in demand. I spoke yesterday to a local vicar who had witnessed a fourfold increase in food parcels at her food bank, but where volunteers had been queueing in supermarkets because they have been unable to make bulk purchases of essential items online. Surely supermarkets could make special arrangements for food banks, as for other vulnerable groups.

These food banks are doing an excellent job, but surely our aim should be that no one needs to rely on one. Anti-poverty charities have been calling for a time-limited coronavirus emergency income support scheme to prevent people from falling into serious financial hardship. Building on the welcome increase in the universal credit standard allowance, that could include temporary measures to lift the benefit cap, including the two-child limit, suspending the five-week waiting period for the first payment, and repayment of advances. I join the noble Lord, Lord Krebs, in asking the Minister what steps the Government are taking to ensure that people most in need are supported to put food on the table during this crisis.