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Food Foundation highlights Spring Budget as a failed opportunity

11th Mar 2024 - 07:00
Hungry child
The Food Foundation has released a statement declaring the Spring Budget as a failed opportunity because didn’t do enough to support families who are experiencing food insecurity.

In January 2024, 15% of UK households experienced food insecurity, skipped meals and they were unable to afford groceries. That is equivalent to approximately eight million adults and three million children.

The Food Foundation considers the Spring Budget as a ‘failed opportunity’ because:

  • Free school meals: policy makers should invest in offering free school meals to all children, starting with all children from households on universal credit
  • Benefit and wage levels: there needs to be a review of current levels of benefits and the living wage to ensure they cover the cost of a healthy and sustainable diet
  • Expansion of the soft drinks industry levy: Building on its success by expanding the levy onto sugar and salt in food to raise money to be invested in children’s health
  • Healthy start: policy makers should expand eligibility, invest in increasing uptake and increase the value of the digital card

Anna Taylor, executive director of the Food Foundation, commented: “This Budget failed to offer support to all those families across the UK who are still in food insecurity and are unable to afford the food they need to live healthily. There was very little in this Budget for them. 

“Whilst we welcome the extension of the Household Support Fund for six months, this is a short-term fix for a long-term problem that doesn’t give councils the reassurance and stability they would get from a long term funding settlement which allow them to provide vital services.

“Policymakers should also introduce a levy for salt and sugar in food to help to tackle diet related diseases that are currently on the rise in the UK. This is especially significant in light of OBR analysis recognising the impact that long-term sickness is having on the workforce.”

The Spring Budget was also criticised by charity Magic Breakfast, School Food Matters and Sustain. 

Dr Lindsey MacDonald, chief executive of Magic Breakfast, said: “With one in four children in this country at risk of being too hungry to learn, the further reductions in national and local spending announced by the chancellor in his budget are the wrong choices for the country and our children. 

“They will mean further cuts to essential services for our schools and families that desperately need them. The education and futures of our most vulnerable children and young people will be put at risk and the growing attainment gap and attendance crisis will likely worsen.”

A School Food Matters spokesperson added: “We were disappointed that the Government has declined yet another opportunity to support children with good food. School food is a crucial part of our economy with the potential to pay huge dividends. It employs more staff than the Royal Navy and buys more food than any other part of the public sector.

“Furthermore, given over one in every seven workers can be found in the agri-food sector, surely we want our future food workforce to be educated in the field? We want to see a Government have the ambition to invest in the next generation by unlocking the superpowers of school food, in both the canteen and the classroom.”

Barbara Crowther, children’s food campaign manager at Sustain, explained: “Having inspected this Spring Budget, we are awarding it an ‘inadequate’ rating when it comes to school food. There’s not even a crumb from the Chancellor’s table for the nation’s children during school term time.

“Local council budgets across the country are at breaking point, and they simply cannot keep stepping into the growing funding void. There is no vision, no new commitment and no delivery of any expanded access to hot nutritious meals for the nation’s schoolchildren.” 

Written by
Edward Waddell