Intended for healthcare professionals

Letters Ending the food bank paradox

Food banks should be phased out: fiscal measures are needed

BMJ 2023; 380 doi: https://doi.org/10.1136/bmj.p179 (Published 25 January 2023) Cite this as: BMJ 2023;380:p179
  1. Michael Craig Watson, trustee,
  2. John Lloyd, honorary vice president
  1. Institute of Health Promotion and Education, Altrincham, UK
  1. mcwatson100{at}gmail.com

Goodwin clearly describes the worsening food insecurity crisis and the brutal paradox that food bank teams are caught in as poverty levels continue to rise.1 Even before the recent pandemic food insecurity was growing in the UK and more recently there has been unprecedented demand on food banks, with some struggling to cope.2

The main reasons for the increased use of food banks, food pantries, food clubs, soup kitchens, and other supports are the impact of low wages and low benefits and the deepening cost of living crisis. Food banks are seeing increasing numbers of people who are in work but cannot afford essentials. A considerable number of families are struggling to meet basic living costs and so eating healthily is unaffordable.

Free school meals may be part of a future solution. Unfortunately, when they are linked to family incomes they can generate stigma and a sense of segregation.3 When food is served as a universal free school meal, however, it can help to improve the quality of children’s diets and general health and wellbeing.4 Universal free school meals may also encourage children to make healthy food choices.5

The UK is one of the world’s richest countries and its population should have enough resources to buy and prepare nutritious food. National interventions are needed so that families with low incomes can afford food and heating. In addition, support could be provided by subsidising fruit and vegetables and taxing less healthy foods.67

The Institute of Health Promotion and Education strongly believes that food insecurity should be made a priority by the government.8 Fiscal measures that improve the adequacy and stability of household incomes are needed urgently. In addition, a longer term strategy should be developed so that foodbanks can be phased out.

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