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.
Evidence provided by FPC is referred to directly in the EFRA Committee’s report and also in its public statement. Our thanks to members who provided feedback on the impacts on their businesses, which we used as part of our lobbying of MPs.
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 recommends:
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."