Hunger in Britain is now a “public health emergency” and the government’s welfare cuts and austerity are adding to the growing problem, leading experts have stated in a recent letter.
Received by the British Medical Journal, the letter was written by senior academics and doctors from the Medical Research Council and two of Britain’s leading universities. In the letter, they stated that government policies are adversely affecting the ability of vulnerable people to afford food and that the situation must be “urgently” monitored.
Surging numbers of Britons requiring food aid, a decreasing amount of calories being eaten by British families, and an explosion of malnutrition cases at UK hospitals provide “all the signs of a public health emergency that could go unrecognised until it is too late to take preventative action,” the experts wrote.
Despite growing evidence of a food poverty crisis, UK ministers continue to maintain their position that there is “no robust evidence” linking the use of food banks to recent welfare reforms. Meanwhile, the publication of government research involving this phenomenon has been delayed, causing many to speculate that the publication of the findings may lead to widespread embarrassment for policymakers.
“Because the Government has delayed the publication of research it commissioned into the rise of emergency food aid in the UK, we can only speculate that the cause is related to the rising cost of living and increasingly austere welfare reforms,” wrote the public health experts.
Professor Margaret Whitehead and Dr. David Taylor-Robinson of the Department of Public Health at the University of Liverpool, along with the letter’s other authors, stated that malnutrition, especially amongst children, can have a long-lasting, negative impact on health.
According to Chris Mould, chief executive of leading national food bank provider Trussell Trust, of the 350,000 Britons requiring a food bank handout in 2018, one in three were children.
He cited the letter as being a “timely warning” and condemned the DWP for keeping its research into the mounting problem “under wraps.”
Meanwhile, Labour’s shadow minister for public health, Luciana Berger, stated the fact that people are suffering from malnutrition in Britain is a “national scandal.”
“This shouldn’t be happening in 21st century Britain,” Berger said.
“With hundreds of thousands having to access emergency food aid, it’s sadly unsurprising that people are both eating less and eating less healthily. David Cameron needs to listen to what the experts are saying and tackle the cost of living crisis driving people into food poverty.”