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Boris Johnson’s ‘plan’ to tackle the hunger crisis is callous and tone deaf

David Cohen
·2-min read
The Felix Project van makes a delivery to the Concorde Youth Centre in Hackney (NIGEL HOWARD)
The Felix Project van makes a delivery to the Concorde Youth Centre in Hackney (NIGEL HOWARD)

This was the week the world discovered that Boris Johnson’s “plan” to tackle food poverty is to do nothing and expect others — councils, charities, restaurants — to pick up the pieces.

It is a tone-deaf and callous approach to people at the bottom that The Independent and The Evening Standard— having launched our Help the Hungry campaign in March — have been addressing on the frontline and behind the scenes for months.

Since partnering with The Felix Project, London’s biggest food surplus distributor, the campaign has supplied an extraordinary 13.5 million meals to the city’s hungry. Despite this remarkably organised effort by Felix, quadrupling deliveries and working six days a week, there are still 100,000 children in the capital “not eating because of lack of food at home”, according to the Food Foundation.

The question arises: how much worse would the situation be without the 13.5 million meals we have supplied these last seven months? I put this to the Food Foundation spokesperson whose one-word response said it all: “Frightening.”

You might think the government would have beaten a path to our door to match-fund — or significantly contribute to — the millions we have raised from corporations, philanthropists, artists and Independent readers.

But in total the government has given The Felix Project a risible £150,000, enough to cover just two weeks’ operating costs to feed the capital’s poorest.

This dismissal from Johnson and his government was especially mystifying given that the National Food Strategy — commissioned by government and delivered by Henry Dimbleby in June — stated that the work of charities that offer “in-kind support, directly providing nutritious food to children is much more effective than increases in a family’s benefits”. Johnson read the report and did the opposite.

It has taken Marcus Rashford and his brilliant campaign to extend free school meals during holidays to expose Johnson as a man with no plan. Now he is backed into a corner by a 22-year-old.

The problem, perhaps, is that Johnson never took Dimbleby seriously when he warned: “The problem of food poverty is real, serious and likely to get worse as a result of Covid”.

David Cohen is campaigns editor at The Evening Standard