22 November 2023
Our response to the 2023 Autumn statement
We are disappointed the Government passed up another opportunity to address food insecurity and ensure everybody in can afford the healthy diet they deserve in today's Autumn statement.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt made no mention of extending Free School Meals or expanding access to the Healthy Start scheme, two key measures that would help families struggling with the cost of living crisis.
This is despite repeated pleas from health professionals, education leaders, teachers, and MPs from across the political spectrum to do more to protect children’s health.
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The Food Foundation's Executive Director Anna Taylor said: “It was disappointing to hear the Chancellor make so little mention of the impact of the cost of living crisis on millions of low-income families in his Autumn Statement.
"Rates of food insecurity in households with children have doubled from 10.8% to 23.4% in the past three years and in the last 18 months alone, food prices have increased by 25%.
"There was little evidence in this Autumn Statement of anything being done about it.
"We are relieved that the Chancellor did not cut benefits in real terms, as some had predicted, and welcome the increase to the national living wage. However, it is worth remembering that both of these remain far too low for many low-income families to be able to afford healthy food.
"The Office for Budget Responsibility’s downgraded projections for GDP growth in the coming years means that household incomes are set to keep falling in real terms.
"This will see families struggling even more with the cost of living, especially if food prices and other bills remain high.
"The Autumn Statement could have delivered so much more, including a commitment to invest in our children’s future, be it through funding more Free School Meals, or expanding the eligibility criteria and increasing the value of the Healthy Start Scheme.
"This was a missed opportunity to address food insecurity, and ensure that everybody in our society can afford the healthy diet that they deserve."
Our Young Food Ambassadors recently staged a stunt outside Parliament calling on politicians to stop ignoring the 900,000 children missing out on Free School Meals.
Saffron Stedall, 19, Young Food Ambassador said: "The Autumn Statement hasn’t done enough to tackle the high levels of food insecurity being faced by families across the country, especially with food inflation remaining high at 10.1%.
"There are currently 900,000 young people living in poverty with no access to Free School Meals due to unfair eligibility criteria.
"Food prices are still going up and many families can’t afford healthy food at home. Over the last year, I’ve been campaigning with the Feed the Future campaign, making the call to extend access to Free School Meals to all school children, with the first step being to immediately target children from families receiving Universal Credit.
"The Food Foundation did research earlier in the year that showed that 70% of people in England including Labour and Conservative voters think that extending provision of Free School Meals is a good use of Government money.
"It’s really frustrating that government is still taking no action to help with such an urgent situation."
The Food Foundation and Sustain this week lead an alliance of more than 140 organisations and campaigners calling on the Government to ensure all households on low incomes with No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) are given permanent access to the Healthy Start scheme.