Reading East MP Rob Wilson responded on behalf of the Government at the launch of an all-party Parliamentary report into the rising use of Foodbanks.
Feeding Britain was released on December 8, and is the result of an inquiry into food poverty. The committee was headed by Labour MP Frank Field and the Bishop of Truro, the Rt Revd Tim Thornton.
The report says that 4 million people are at risk of going hungry, 3.5 million adults cannot afford to eat properly, and 500,000 children live in families that cannot afford to feed them.
The aim now is to launch a separate Feeding Britain programme, with pilot schemes established in each region. Working with FareShare, FoodCycle and the Trussell Trust, the pilots will seek to help redistribute surplus food in a way that it can be used.
In his response, Rob Wilson – who is a minister for Civil Society – paid tribute to the “inspirational work of charities, faith groups and communities who have given up their time and resources to help people in need”.
He also reminded the audience that he had visited the recent food collection at Tesco’s Reading East store in Napier Road and met with local foodbank shoppers.
“In the 21st century, people should not be going hungry at the same time as surplus food goes to waste,” he said.
“A resilient supply chain will always have some surplus, and we welcome the redistribution of good quality surplus food to charities that can ensure it goes to people in need.”
He went on to refer to the Courtauld Commitment, which aims to reduce the levels of food waste: “We have prevented 2.9 million tonnes of food waste with a value of £4bn and UK annual household food waste has decreased by 15% (1.3 million tonnes) between 2007 and 2012.
“This Government is determined to push this further.”
Commenting on the preliminary recommendations, Frank Field and Tim Thornton said: “The poorest households have most felt the pinch over the past decade, meaning the last resort of turning to food banks has become a reality for an increasing number of people. There is a real need for help.”