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In a world of plenty, it is sobering to acknowledge that hunger remains a harsh reality for many, worsened by the current cost of living crisis, writes Nick Reade, General Manager at Mars Food and Nutrition UK.

In the year preceding April 2023 alone, the Trussell Trust network distributed close to three million emergency food parcels to people facing hardship. More than one million of these parcels were distributed for children. This is the most parcels that the network has ever distributed in a year and represents a 37% increase from the previous year. These figures show a cruel reality: for many families, even something as essential as food is not affordable.

The Trussell Trust’s extensive network of more than 1,300 food banks is a critical lifeline for people facing hardship. For the one in seven people in the UK facing hunger (or to put it simply, more than 11 million people) the biggest barrier to meals together is a lack of adequate income. This can manifest in many ways – being able to afford to buy and cook food, the space to eat it together, the pressure this puts on peoples’ mental health and the impact irregular or unreliable work patterns have on finding time to connect.

It should serve as a clear wakeup call, a reminder that even in a developed nation like the UK, there are families struggling to afford the essentials, with more and more people being forced to turn to emergency food services. It’s a disconcerting fact, but it’s a reality we can all play a part in changing. The Trussell Trust predicts that this winter will be the busiest winter on record. For the first time, the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks expect to provide more than one million food parcels between December and February – equating to one parcel every eight seconds (11,500 a day).

That’s why for the fourth year in a row, we’re working with the Trussell Trust. Together we’re calling on the UK to Stand Against Hunger and strive for a more equitable future. This year, our Ben’s Original and Dolmio packs are a fundamental part of the campaign, creating an accessible way for shoppers to donate, but also drawing their attention to the people in their own community who cannot afford the essentials.

There is still work to be done to raise awareness of why people in the UK have to turn to food banks and why change is needed so everyone has enough to afford the essentials such as food. The first step is to build understanding around poverty and why people need to access food banks. We know we have a platform; our consumer favourite brands have the power to engage customers and elevate important social issues. This is why we’re continuing our partnership in the fight against hunger: we believe our voice can help make a difference.

Lasting change happens when wider society thinks and acts differently about an issue, so we’re building understanding and empathy about the drivers of food bank need and calling greater numbers of people to take action. We’re striving for a UK without the need for food banks, where people are not pushed into hardship and ongoing financial support is readily available. We want a UK where large-scale emergency food distribution is no longer needed. We believe we can achieve this future, but it calls for all of us to take action. By working together, we can strive for a future where food banks are no longer needed, and everyone can afford the essentials.

 

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