House of Commons Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee
NEW REPORT PUBLICATION: Covid-19 and the issues of security in food supply
Wednesday 7 April 2021
Money to support hospitality businesses will be 'wasted' if Government does not aid suppliers, say MPs
Government must act urgently to support businesses supplying pubs and restaurants
The Government must recognise the impact of hospitality's closure on the sector's suppliers, and act urgently to support the supply chain. Noting the greater risks for small businesses, a new report from the House of Commons EFRA Committee calls on Ministers to provide additional funding to food and drink wholesalers and suppliers, who have not received the level of financial support offered to the pubs, bars and cafes that rely on them.
The report, which follows the publication of the Committee's July 2020 Covid-19 and Food Supply report, analyses the six months from August 2020, in which the hospitality sector was subject to two national lockdowns and an array of local restrictions. Addressing both the food supply chain and food insecurity, the report also highlight the almost 1 in 10 households who have, during the two most recent national lockdowns, experienced food poverty, and again urges the Government to appoint a new Minster for Food Security and consult on a national 'right to food' in England.
The report, can be found here.
The Committee recommend:
- In anticipation of hospitality reopening on April 12th, the Government must urgently recognise the impact of the sector's closure on its suppliers. Additional financial support should be provided to hospitality suppliers, particularly small businesses, during the period of reopening.
- The Government should provide ongoing support to charities working to distribute surplus food from the farm gate to frontline food aid providers.
- With the number of people experiencing food insecurity likely to have worsened because of lockdowns, the Government should conduct an annual food security report, sustaining this frequency until the combined economic fallout of covid-19 and Brexit has passed.
- A new Minister for Food Security should be appointed to work cross-departmentally, ensuring that everyone, and especially the most vulnerable, has access to enough affordable nutritious food. The Government must also consult on a legal 'right to food' in its White Paper responding to the National Food Strategy, due early this summer.
- In the event of another lockdown, the Government should ensure that families with children eligible for free school meals continue to be able to feed their children. The report also calls on the Government to learn from the unacceptable food parcels provided by some suppliers in January, and ensure that 'any future offering is consistently up to standard'.
- The Government must call on retailers to 'recognise their responsibility' to assist clinically extremely vulnerable (CEV) people to access food if advised to shield, including the removal of delivery charges and minimum online spends for them. The report also raises concerns about people with disabilities who are unable to access online food delivery, recommending that Government ensures they receive the assistance they need. Retailers must also ensure that efforts to make their stores “covid secure” do not exclude people with disabilities.
Neil Parish MP, Chair of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Select Committee, said:
"When pubs, bars and restaurants closed, their suppliers’ market evaporated overnight. They have worked admirably to pivot to new customers, but many businesses, particularly small ones, are struggling to survive. We are all looking forward to hospitality beginning to re-open on Monday, but the reality is that without support for their suppliers, many venues may struggle.
"The Government must act now to provide additional help for suppliers. If its supply chain collapses the money the hospitality sector has received to get them through lockdown will have been wasted.
"There must also be recognition of the tremendous momentum gathered during the crisis to keep the most vulnerable in our society fed. This must be sustained. For the second time in a year, our Committee urge the Government to appoint a new Minister to address food security in the UK."
Dr Neil Hudson MP for Penrith and The Border and Member of the EFRA Select Committee said:
“This timely report from our EFRA Select Committee has once again highlighted the importance of food security which has been brought into sharp relief in the pandemic. Our Committee has stressed the importance of supporting the most vulnerable in society and that Government must protect the food supply chain, not least by helping the suppliers and wholesalers. A Minister to address food security in the UK would be an important addition to Government.”