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The latest updates from the #EndHungerUK team

Getting the facts straight about food insecurity

October 3, 2017

The British government signed up to the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals in 2015.The SDGs were an aspiration for all countries though their main focus was on fighting poverty in the developing world, the UNs work on the impact of poverty in developed countries has been illuminating. Geoff Tansey, who chaired the Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty, writes on how the UN’s reporting on our own progress against SDGs exposes our need to measure food insecurity in this country.

In September 2015, the British Government committed itself to end hunger and all forms of malnutrition. It was then that the UK, along with most other governments, signed up to the Sustainable Development Goals at the United Nations.  These goals apply to all countries, including the UK. The second of these goals is to ‘End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture’. The first commitment under this goal is:

‘By 2030, end hunger and ensure access by all people, in particular the poor and people in vulnerable situations, including infants, to safe, nutritious and sufficient food all year round.

As the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) argues, there is something relevant to meeting the end hunger goal in virtually every other goal of the 2030 Agenda – the first one being to end absolute poverty, others cover clean water and sanitation, climate action, reducing inequality, peace and justice.

Now while most focus goes, quite rightly, on the urgent need to tackle these challenges in the poorest countries, these goals also apply to the UK. The End Hunger UK campaign is one contribution to tackling hunger and poverty here. As one of the world’s richest countries we should be far more ambitious about ending hunger here well before 2030 – whilst at the same time supporting programmes, governments, businesses and civil society organisations to do the same elsewhere around the world.

Last month FAO, along with 4 other UN agencies, published the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, 2017 – and it is well worth reading.  Shockingly, the latest figures available show that from 2015-2016 the numbers of those going hungry in the world went up by 38 million to 815 million people.

One of the measures they use in the report is the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES), which showed that nearly one in 10 people in the world suffer from food insecurity. This is based on interview data from adults around the world to measure people’s access to food. It relies on direct yes/no responses to eight questions about access to adequate food. “Respondents are asked about experiences associated with the inability to access food, including whether they have at any time during the previous 12 months, due to lack of money or other resources: been worried about not being able to obtain enough food; been forced to decrease the quality or quantity of the food they eat; gone for entire days without eating.” says the report.

The report notes that “The ideal source of FIES data is large population surveys conducted by national institutions, enabling more detailed, policy-relevant analyses of the food-insecurity situation by income, gender, age, race, ethnicity, migratory status, disability, geographic location, or other policy-relevant characteristics.” Unfortunately, few countries, including the UK, collect such data in national surveys. Yet we need to know it, if we are to be able to say we are meeting the goal of ending hunger.

This is why one of the panels, which I am chairing, at the EndHunger UK national conference on October 17th will be on ‘Measuring the scale of the problem’. The three speakers – Rachel Loopstra (KCL), Anna Taylor (The Food Foundation) and Elli Kontoravddis (Nourish Scotland) – are working on this, and how knowing the level of food insecurity helps both reach our goal in EndHunger UK, hold government to account, and support the Right to Food. Do join us.

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