London: People in the UK are facing among the highest and most volatile food prices in Western Europe, according to a new global food database released by Oxfam today.
The Good Enough to Eat index is the first of its kind, comparing data from 125 countries to create a global snapshot of the different challenges people face in getting the food they need to eat. The index comes at a time when one in eight people in the world go hungry despite there being enough to feed everyone, and highlights how distribution and prices are important factors. It brings together data on whether people have enough to eat, can afford to eat, the quality of food and the health outcomes of people’s diet.
Overall The Netherlands, followed by France and Switzerland in joint second are the best places for people to eat in the index, while Chad is the worst followed by Angola and Ethiopia, also in joint second place.
Hairy Biker chef Dave Myers has just returned from Cambodia, which is positioned 89th overall, to see Oxfam’s projects to help boost food security.
He said: “It’s terrible to think that so many people go hungry in a world that produces more than enough. I have seen how Oxfam is bringing simple solutions to Cambodia to help farmers double rice production and make more from what they grow. All of this can change lives for good but a concerted global effort is needed if we are to end the shame of hunger which is clearly affecting people everywhere – even in the UK.”
The UK is among the worst performers in Western Europe on whether citizens can afford to eat, sharing 20th position with Cyprus, and with only Austrians and Icelanders fairing worse.
At a time of austerity and with more than half a million people using food banks, the index reveals how people in the UK face higher prices for food compared to other goods than almost everyone in Western Europe. Only Austrians and Italians face the same level of pressure while Cypriots have to pay more. The UK also ranked in the bottom half of all OECD countries on food price volatility.
This record on food prices means that the UK’s combined score puts it in 13th position – falling short of making the top dozen (best 10 per cent). Instead, The Netherlands, France and Switzerland are joined by Belgium, Sweden, Denmark and Austria, Australia, Luxembourg, Portugal, Italy and Ireland. All enjoy top marks for their lack of malnutrition and undernourishment and for access to safe water, while other measures, including obesity, have lowered their final results.
At the bottom of the table, one in three children are underweight in Chad, where food is relatively more expensive than anywhere else, apart from Guinea and Gambia. Chad shares fourth worst position on the quality of food consumed.
Oxfam’s Chief Executive Mark Goldring said: “This index lays bare some of the challenges that people face in getting the food they need – regardless of where they come from. It reveals how the world is failing to ensure that everyone is able to eat healthily, despite there being enough to go around.
“The UK’s failure to make the top table is a shocking indictment for the world’s sixth richest country. With a record number of people turning to food banks, the government must carry out an urgent inquiry into how welfare changes and cuts are exacerbating food poverty and deepening inequality.”
Oxfam is working worldwide to provide long-term solutions that will help people grow enough food to eat and make a living. In Chad, for example, Oxfam is helping farmers grow and diversify more crops, providing veterinary training to help ensure cattle are stronger and are helping to build more food storage, so that people are better prepared with the next drought conditions.
The Good Enough to Eat index follows the launch of Oxfam’s new fundraising campaign Lift Lives for Good, which aims to show how simple solutions on the ground can bring lasting change to individuals and in turn their communities and beyond. The campaign is also calling for action on two major challenges that can exacerbate food poverty – inequality and climate change.
Oxfam is calling for action in the UK to address growing inequality and the underlying challenges that people are increasingly facing such as unemployment, low wages and rising food and fuel prices. It wants an urgent government inquiry into the affect welfare changes and cuts are having.
Globally, Oxfam is campaigning for urgent action on climate change which presents a significant threat to food security, as well as investment in small-holder agriculture and infrastructure to boost crop production, prevent waste and improve access to markets. It also wants an end to biofuels targets, which are diverting food from mouths to fuel tanks, action to tackle climate change, better regulation of food commodities markets to prevent food price hikes and improved land rights so people do not lose the land they rely on to grow food.