Public health specialists are today calling on the Prime Minister David Cameron to take action on nutrition and hunger in the UK.
The call comes in a letter published in The Lancet, which has been signed by 170 members, Fellows and spokespeople from the UK Faculty of Public Health. FPH is the professional home for public health specialists: some are qualified as doctors and others have worked in other roles before training in public health. The signatories are from across the UK as well as overseas.
“There is a worrying gap in health circumstances and outcomes between rich and poor people in the UK,” say the authors. “Complex though the reasons for this inequality are, the reality is that many hardworking families in the UK are living in poverty and do not have enough income for a decent diet.”
The letter urges Mr Cameron to set up an independent working group to monitor nutrition and hunger in the UK. It also asks the Prime Minister to act on the findings of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Hunger and Food Poverty’s parliamentary inquiry, which the authors say will improve people’s health when published.
Professor John Ashton, President of FPH, and one of the letter’s signatories, said: “We have to face an uncomfortable truth: we may be facing a public health emergency in the UK. The spectre of Oliver Twist is back. Children are going hungry in the UK: they may not be eating gruel but their parents are having to choosing cheap food that is filling but not nutritious.”
“This crisis can’t be explained away by assuming people are not budgeting properly or don’t know how to cook. There are three main reasons for the increased demand for food banks: increasing food poverty; stagnant income and wages among low-paid people; and the rising cost of food. UK food prices have risen 12% in real terms since 2007, and in the same period, UK workers have suffered a 7.6% fall in real wages.”
“It therefore seems likely that increasing numbers of people on low wages are not earning enough money to meet their most basic nutritional needs for maintaining a healthy diet. We should not accept this in the UK, the world’s sixth largest economy and the third largest in Europe.”