A select committee of MPs has called on the government to provide additional financial support for hospitality suppliers, without which the funding used to keep pubs, restaurants and cafés going over the last year "will be wasted".
A report on Covid-19 and food supply by the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee has said that, ahead of hospitality reopening on 12 April, the government must "urgently" recognise the impact of the sector's closure on its suppliers, particularly small businesses, encourage greater market access for locally produced foods and help facilitate digital support for local businesses.
Jointly addressing food insecurity and the food supply chain, the report also said the government must learn from the "failings" of the Chartwells free school meals parcel scandal and ensure that "any future offering is consistently up to standard and delivers value for money".
The report also urged the government to appoint a new minster for food security and consult on a national 'right to food' in England, as well as provide ongoing support to charities working to distribute surplus food.
Neil Parish, chair of the committee, said: "During the Covid crisis, different government departments pulled together to make sure that the most vulnerable in our society were fed. This should set a precedent. We have a duty to ensure that access to enough nutritious food is a fundamental right for everyone in the UK, which is why, for the second time in a year, our committee urge the government to appoint a new minister specifically to address food security.
"The government must now learn lessons from the pandemic, using the teething problems it encountered in distributing food to ensure that, in 'normal times', disadvantaged groups – such as those without internet access – do not slip between the cracks.
"It also has a responsibility to support businesses right the way through the food supply chain. As hospitality opens up from next Monday, additional financial support must be provided to its suppliers, else the funding rightly given to pubs, restaurants and cafés to get them through the lockdown will be wasted."