Last week I called on the Government to address food poverty in our country.
Two years ago in Parliament I said: “People are going hungry, and, with each passing day of this terrible excuse for a Government, more and more are falling into poverty, with little or no chance of escape.
“There are no second chances in Britain today. Food poverty is a clear consequence of the Government’s ideological assault on the social safety net and the people who rely on it.
“One hungry person is a complete disgrace, but thousands of hungry people are a national disaster’.
Fast forward to today, and over 8 million people in Britain, one of the wealthiest countries in the world, are estimated to be living in food insecure households, which means they are regularly going hungry or are malnourished.
But the Government has continued to bury its head in the sand and is refusing to even implement a national measurement of how many households are not able to provide consistent food at sufficient levels in the UK.
I assume they think if they don’t measure the problem, it doesn’t officially exist, and therefore they do not have to take responsibility or do anything about it.
What we do know is the terrible impact food insecurity has on households and on wider society: how parents are unable to afford to feed their children nutritiously balanced meals; how this breeds a sense of shame, stress, anxiety and social isolation.
Many adults and children go whole days without eating in this day and age, simply for the lack of money.
Our best estimates suggest half a million different people received food assistance from the Trussell Trust, the UK’s largest network of emergency food aid providers, in 2014/15.
However, the Trussell Trust are not the only organisation offering food parcels, in fact they don’t operate in Shields at all, and many - indeed most - food insecure people don’t access emergency food aid.
It is simply not acceptable that foodbanks and food insecurity on this Government’s watch are now entrenched as being unofficially part of the welfare state.
It has proven immensely difficult to secure a commitment for a standard measurement tool from Government.
This data gap could easily be closed through the insertion of a short list of questions into an existing annual survey instrument so there is no reason or cost implication preventing the Government from doing this.
Millions are suffering, many in silence, because of the stigma and humiliation associated with poverty and hunger.
We must act urgently to end this scourge on our society and measuring the scale of the problem is the first step in eradicating this grotesque blight on society.
I hope you will join me in putting pressure on the Government to introduce this measurement and that throughout this festive season you remember those at home and around the world who are less fortunate.