Sustainable Development Goals in the UK follow up: Hunger, malnutrition and food insecurity in the UK Contents


The UK Government has committed itself to “working tirelessly for the full implementation” of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the UK, as well as overseas, but there continues to be a “doughnut-shaped hole” in domestic implementation of the SDGs. We support UKSSD’s conclusion that “while there is an enormous amount to celebrate, the most vulnerable places and people in our society are increasingly being left behind.” This report uses SDG 2: Zero Hunger, as a case study through which to review Government’s broader progress against the domestic implementation of the SDGs.

Food insecurity is a significant and growing issue in the UK, with figures from The Food and Agriculture Organisation and The Food Foundation showing that levels are among the worst - if not the worst–in Europe, especially for children. The issues of food insecurity, hunger, malnutrition and obesity should be considered in parallel in the UK context as they are often co-located and correlated. Government has failed to recognise and respond to these issues within the UK. The Government’s obesity strategy makes no mention of food insecurity, and the only Department to address hunger in its Single Departmental Plan (SDP) is the Department for International Development. Since the SDGs are intended to be entrenched through the SDPs, we are concerned that an item as significant as hunger and food insecurity in the UK has fallen between the cracks. We call on Government to appoint a minister for hunger, to ensure cross-departmental understanding and action on this important issue. We welcome examples of excellent local initiatives working to reallocate the UK’s surplus food and to tackle hunger. Government needs to engage with civil society to understand the scale, causes and impacts of food insecurity in the UK, implement strategies for improvement, and monitor progress.

In their present format, Single Departmental Plans (SDPs) are insufficient to deliver the SDGs in the UK. Government’s failure to ensure that all SDG targets are covered in the SDPs has left significant gaps in plans and accountability. We call on the Cabinet Office to lead in ensuring that no SDG target is left out, and to lead the cross-departmental working which the SDGs require. The Voluntary National Review (VNR) offers Government an opportunity to audit its own performance and raise the profile of the SDGs. However, we are concerned that Government has not left enough time to engage fully in stakeholder consultation to meet its commitment to allow Parliamentary scrutiny before the VNR is submitted in May 2019.

The Office for National Statistics(ONS) has made progress in developing metrics to measure performance against the SDGs, but many gaps still exist, and the SDG indicators are not yet embedded in the SDPs. Similarly, awareness of the SDGs has grown in some parts of civil society and business, for example through the Better Retail, Better World project. However, the Government has not yet done enough to drive awareness and embed the SDGs across the UK–including within Government itself. We reiterate the recommendation made in our predecessor Committee’s 2017 report that the Government should do everything it can to support partners (government agencies, local government, civil society, business and the public) to contribute towards delivering the Goals. The Government should show leadership by introducing an SDG impact assessment as part of the cost-benefit analysis undertaken by Government, or for politically strategic events such as the Queen’s Speech and Budget.

Published: 10 January 2019