They point out that more than 8.4m people in the UK are food-insecure and that diet is a key factor in lowering life expectancy and weakening the immune systems of the poorest people.
“The current crisis risks exacerbating diet-related inequalities,” says the letter signed by Professor Tim Lang at City, University of London, Erik Millstone, emeritus professor at University of Sussex, and Professor Terry Marsden at Cardiff University.
They want an ‘open’ rationing system based on health needs, an urgent review of how to ensure people on low incomes can afford to buy food, plans to ensure those who self-isolate or are quarantined can have food delivered, and an amendment to the current Agriculture Bill committing to feeding people ‘well, healthily, equitably and sustainably’.
The letter adds: “People on low incomes are particularly anxious about how they will feed themselves during this crisis. Food banks are closing, and those remaining open have supply shortages yet rocketing demands.
“Some very hungry people are being ‘gate-kept’ out of food banks because systems for allocating vouchers are failing.”
As things stand, they believe important decisions about access to food based on need and health are being left to supermarkets and food banks.
They conclude: “If the ‘we are all in it together’ principle reigns, then now is the time for health to shape access to food.”