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Open Letter: We Need a National Food Emergency Summit

In an open letter, a coalition of academics, trade unions, and community activists call on the government to organise a summit to deal with our national food emergency – and take urgent steps to help the millions going hungry in Britain.

Destitution is on the rise and reliance on food banks is normalised. (wjarek / Getty Images)

Together with the Food and Work Network—a coalition of academics, community activists, and trade unions recently founded at Birkbeck College, University of London—we are clear that Britain is now currently experiencing a National Food Emergency.

We believe that the UK Government, and all the devolved administrations, mayoralties, and local councils must deliver a plan to help feed people and ensure that their basic needs are met. To develop this plan a National Food Emergency Summit should be urgently organised.

This national summit could be replicated in all devolved administrations and within local areas, with councils and mayors organising national, regional, and local food plans to ensure no-one goes hungry in the UK.

As things stand, millions of people in the UK are today feeling insecure about food. Inflation is the highest it has been in forty years, with food prices, alongside energy costs, at record levels. Millions of people, including millions of children, are unable to meet their basic needs. Destitution is on the rise and reliance on food banks is normalised.

It is against this context that we have an ‘earnings and income crisis’ (not simply a cost of living crisis), and so, in calling for a National Food Emergency, we believe that the UK Government and the devolved administrations should work together to deliver:

  • A rise in the National Minimum Wage to at least £15 an hour—to guarantee workers a real Living Wage
  • An immediate and substantial increase to Universal Credit—restoring the £20 uplift, uprating benefits to keep pace with rising prices and bills, and removing the five-week wait
  • Universal free school meals for every child throughout the year
  • A ban on ‘zero hours’ contracts to guarantee workers predictable incomes they can live on
  • The enshrining of the Right to Food in law.

Our view is that enshrining the right to food in law places a responsibility on the UK, Scottish, Welsh, and Northern Irish Governments to ensure all the citizens of the UK are fed good, nutritious food. This would place on them a statutory responsibility to resource and deliver a plan to ensure every citizen in the UK can access good quality, affordable, and nutritious food.

In the absence of Right to Food legislation, and given the urgency of the current National Food Emergency, we would also urge the UK, Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish Governments to resource and deliver a plan to ensure every citizen in the UK can access good quality, affordable, and nutritious food.

We call on the TUC, the wider trade union movement, all political parties, religious leaders, academics, researchers, campaigners, and all the people of this country to demand that governments act now to call a National Food Emergency and address the food crisis facing so many people.


Prof. Alex Colas, Coordinator, Food and Work Network, Birkbeck College University of London

Sarah Woolley, General Secretary, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union

Ian Byrne MP, Right to Food Campaign

Steve Rotheram, Mayor of Liverpool City Region

Prof. Kate Pickett, Professor of Epidemiology, University of York

Prof. Ben Selwyn, University of Sussex

Prof. Ian Sinha, Division of Child Health, University of Liverpool

Prof. Susan Konzelmann, Birkbeck College, University of London

Prof. Ozlem Onaran, University of Greenwich

Prof. Bryce Evans, Liverpool Hope University

Sharon Graham, General Secretary, Unite the Union

Mark Serwotka, General Secretary, Public and Commercial Services Union

Michelle Stanistreet, General Secretary, National Union of Journalists

Bob Monks, General Secretary, United Road Transport Union

Kevin Courtney, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Dr Mary Bousted, Joint General Secretary, National Education Union

Dr Jo Grady, General Secretary, University and Colleges Union

Doug Nicholls, General Secretary, General Federation of Trades Unions

Steve Gillan, General Secretary, Prison Officers Association

Juliet Lyons, General Secretary, Psychotherapy and Counselling Union

Dave Ward, General Secretary, Communication Workers Union

Roy Rickhuss, General Secretary, Community Trade Union

Paul Fleming, General Secretary, Equity

Paul Donaldson, General Secretary, Hospital Consultants and Specialists Association

Manuel Cortes, General Secretary, Transport and Salaried Staff Associations

Claire Jones, National Secretary, Society of Union Employees

John McGowan, General Secretary, Social Workers Union

Fran Heathcote, President, Public and Commercial Services Union

Ian Hodson, President, Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union

Daniel Kebede, President, National Education Union

Zita Holbourne, Chair, Artist Union of England

Laura Smith, Unite Community

Annette Mansell, Green British Dietetic Association

Dr Callum Cant, University of Oxford

Dr Andrew Williams, University of Cardiff

Dr Dave Beck, University of Salford

Dr Megan Blake, University of Sheffield

Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham

Dr Rob Booth, University of Birmingham

Adam Peggs, Common Wealth think tank

Dee Woods, Co-founder, Granville Community Kitchen and Food Ethics Council

Rajesh Makwana, Executive Director, Sufra NW London

Dr Gemma Bridge, Independent public and oral health researcher

Dr Jazber Singh, University of Coventry

Dr Naomi Maynard, Good Food Programme Director, Feeding Liverpool

Angela Moohan, CEO, The Larder

Dr Sharon Noonan-Gunning, Dietician, City University of London

Hilary Wainwright, Co-Editor, Red Pepper

Carina Millstone, Executive Director, Feedback Global

Dr James Meadway, Director, Progressive Economy Forum

Harry Morgan, This is Rubbish food waste campaign

Rachel Vogler, Rene Cassin (Jewish Human Rights Charity)

Katya Pursall, 10 GM

Dr Tommy Kane, Unity Consulting Scotland

Neil Findlay, Unity Consulting Scotland and former MSP

Dr Michael Calderbank, Solidarity Consulting

Ronan Burtenshaw, editor, Tribune