Labour councillors declare Hackney a Right to Food borough to tackle cost-of-living crisis

Hackney’s Labour councillors have unanimously declared Hackney a Right to Food borough and resolved to campaign for the Right to Food to be enshrined into UK law.

Data suggests that as many as 56,000 adults are missing meals and 22,000 are using a food bank in Hackney as a result of the cost of living crisis. This is completely unacceptable and we are doing what we can to tackle this situation head on.

These figures reflect the fact that over twelve years of Tory austerity have left far too many people below the breadline. We welcome the Mayor of London committing to fund universal primary school meals for one year in response to the cost of living crisis, but there remains a long-term need for the Government to act.

Enshrining the Right to Food in law would be a significant step in ensuring that no more people go hungry in Hackney, or in the rest of the UK.”

The last decade has seen a staggering rise in food poverty across the UK, with millions of people going hungry and foodbank use spiking since the start of the pandemic.

In April 2020 alone, Hackney Foodbank fed 1,803 people (a 186% increase on the previous year) with over 400 recipients being children, and it is estimated that 40 percent of children in the borough are living in poverty.

This is yet another symptom of over a decade of Tory austerity, which has pushed the country to breaking point. This has been exacerbated further by the cost of living crisis, which is affecting too many of our residents in Hackney.

The motion, recently passed at Full Council, states that the Government is legally required under international law to secure the human right to adequate food for everyone in the UK, but to date it has failed to effectively implement this within UK law.

Cllr Chris Kennedy, Cabinet Member for Health, Adult Social Care, Voluntary Sector and Culture, and lead for Food Justice, added: “Hackney Council, under Labour’s political leadership, is doing everything within its power to support our communities. Whether that be through our food network, providing food during school holidays, or by providing financial support through the Council’s newly established Money Hub.

“Nevertheless, poverty in our borough, across London and across the country has been exacerbated by the pandemic and this Conservative Government’s failure to tackle the current cost of living crisis and target support to those who need it most.

“The Government must do more; bringing the Right to Food into UK law would be a good start.”

Labour councillors Jon Narcross and Sheila Suso-Runge, who proposed the motion, emphasised that enshrining the Right to Food in law would clarify government obligations on food poverty and would introduce legal avenues to hold public bodies accountable for failing to prevent people from going hungry in the fifth largest economy in the world.

Hackney Labour’s motion also calls for: a national network of community-use kitchens, access to public land suitable for community food growing, and country-wide policy of universal free school meals.

This is one of the reasons why Hackney Labour welcomed the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan’s announcement that every London state primary school pupil will get free school meals next academic year.

This latest action from Hackney Council continues to deliver on the manifesto upon which it was elected, and builds upon a strong foundation of work on Food Justice, a campaign initiated by the Co-operative Party.

As well as having a Cabinet Member committed to the issue, the Council has established a Free School Meals task force, aimed at providing a hot, healthy meal to as many children in poverty as possible. Working with Deputy Mayor Bramble, the Council has backed this with £300k of new investment.

Under Labour’s political stewardship, the Council is setting aside a further £250k to help reduce poverty, including: to develop long-term access to affordable food, to end hunger in Hackney, and ensure there is emergency support when needed, while also promoting access to good, nutritious food.

Hackney Council was also successful in campaigning for poverty-related funding from the Government that brought £5.6m into Hackney over the last year – and will bring the same in for next year. This has helped us reach those most affected by poverty, including supporting low-income families of more than 20,000 children with help to buy food during the school holidays.

Cllr Narcross, speaking at the Full Council meeting, said: “Food insecurity is linked with depression, obesity and eating disorders.

“Going hungry can cause decreased immunity, poor physical health and malnutrition leading to heart disease and even death. And that is why now, the Right to Food, has sadly never been more important.

“Hunger is a political choice. But by backing the Right to Food we can begin to reverse the tide of food insecurity and ensure that nobody, no matter their background, has to go hungry in our community anymore.”