As the winter months approach, many individuals and families will be forced to choose between facing Hunger or keeping warm. It is estimated that currently 13 million people live below the poverty line, 1 in 5 people in the UK. Many are regularly turning to foodbanks to supply their families on an emergency basis. Considering that the UK is the fifth richest nation on the planet, the role of the Government in such a crisis must be questioned. For this reason,twelve of the UK’s leading charities have joined forces to launch the End Hunger UK campaign.

The government must address poverty and hunger

End Hunger UK is asking the public to join a Big Conversation running until March 2017, sharing their answer to the question: “What does our government need to do to end hunger in the UK?” Participants must write their answer on a paper plate and post a picture of it on social media using the hashtag#EndHungerUK.

The idea is to share ideas and nominate others, including MPs, to ‘step up to the plate’: to add their voice to a chorus which will pressure the government to face the troubling facts. In addition to calling the government to account, the campaign aims to bring together a network to share best practice and to find workable solutions.

Labour MP Frank Field, who chairs the cross parliamentary group on hunger has already answered the Big Conversation question: “The Government has two tasks: help push up family incomes, and help local communities divert the huge amounts of nutritious, good quality Food ‘waste’ to the hungry.”

Charities working against hunger serve as a lifeline

Two of the several organisations who are already engaged in making a difference are the The Trussell Trust and Fareshare.

The Trussell Trust runs over 400 foodbanks across the UK. Aside from providing emergency parcels, their aim is to act as a point of support for those who are referred to them, providing what they term a ‘More Than Food’ service. The organisation Fareshare is focused on tackling the problem of food waste in the UK. They work with companies in the food industry to redistribute food which has become surplus - for reasons such as overproduction or labelling errors – to hundreds of charities each day.

The charity initiatives are so urgently needed that they operate as a lifeline for those on low incomes. Last year, 16,000 cases of malnutrition were reported in hospitals, including children, and GP’s treated a further 50 times that number of poverty related cases. Pensioners are the most vulnerable, and doctors are resorting to prescribing nutritional drinks supplements to their patients to help keep them alive. This is why more widescale attention is necessary: a person on a low income may hit an emergency point because of an unexpected bill or health crisis, but the primary reasons are increasing prices, low wages, and extreme cuts to benefits, often sanctions without cause. Under austerity, many people who suffer from multiple conditions are being found ‘fit for work’ and losing their rights to the minimalbenefits they receive.

End Hunger UK, with the multitudes of the British public joining in support, is throwing down the gauntlet: it is time for the government to start thinking about solutions for the millions of their citizens’ basic right to sustenance.