TOMORROW as dusk gathers, all over Britain gangs of pint-sized ghouls and witches will wander the streets, watched over by parents in civvies worried about just how many sweets their kids can consume in one evening. Millions of grinning heads back-lit by tea-lights will appear on windowsills and garden walls: pumpkin lanterns celebrating Halloween.

Harmless fun for the kids, certainly. Recent research, however, does raise questions about one aspect of this modern tradition, a practice that has developed from our peasant forebears carving turnips into “Jack O’Lanterns”.

It is estimated that more than 8m pumpkins – equivalent to more than 18,000 tonnes of edible pumpkin flesh – are destined for the bin, with the majority of consumers not eating this nutritious squash. To put this in context, roughly 10m pumpkins are grown in the UK every year, 95% of which are hollowed out to create Halloween lanterns.

Big business with big profits for retailers, of course. One thing our consumer culture excels at is creating shopping opportunities from traditional folk festivals like Halloween, Easter or Christmas. Costumes, plastic banners and novelty toys, enough sweets to make Willy Wonka grow faint. In 2018, UK citizens spent £419m celebrating Halloween.

By Friday, all that pumpkin flesh will be degrading one way or another.

And yet a hidden food horror story will still be very much present for far too many of our fellow citizens.

According to the award-winning charity, Fareshare, which aims to fight hunger and tackle food waste, 8.4 million people in the UK are struggling to afford to eat, the equivalent of the entire population of London. In short, for the first time since the 1930s, millions of Britons are going hungry.

United Nations research shows that 4.7 million live in severely food insecure homes. This means their food intake is greatly reduced and children regularly experience physical sensations of hunger. The same research reveals 5.6% of people aged 15 or over struggle to get enough food and that a further 4.5% report they have been a full day without anything to eat.

Hence, the shameful explosion in the number of food banks.

Yet at the same time, 1.9 million tonnes of food is wasted by the food industry every year. Whether through over-production, labelling errors or an impractically short shelf-life, 250,000 tonnes of still edible food goes to waste annually, enough for 650 million meals.

In other words, there is no rational reason for anyone to go hungry in the UK. And hunger isn’t the only negative effect of this crazy situation: the environmental cost of food waste is adding to an already life-threatening climate crisis.

Nor can we attribute the situation to a natural disaster or adverse weather affecting the food supply as was historically often the case.

Put simply, for growing numbers of people afflicted by low pay and the Universal Credit system, it is the logical consequence of the government’s austerity policies since the 2008 banking crash.

Halloween is a light-hearted celebration of ghoulishness. Yet it is hard to think of a more genuinely ghoulish situation than millions of our children going hungry. If ghouls live off human flesh, then what are we to call the politicians and millionaires who have actively fostered this scandalous situation, arguably just so they can pay less tax.

With our welfare state underfunded and falling apart through austerity, we are all closer to the threat of destitution than ordinary people have been for generations. Young people, in particular, are facing needlessly difficult starts in life. For them, the on-going housing crisis, widespread low wages, job insecurity and student debt mean they face an uphill struggle.

So here’s a handy recipe to use up your left over pumpkin flesh. I call it, People Power Pumpkin Soup. First, take a pan big enough to service the whole community, rather just a tiny number of rich people and their hired politicians. Next, pour in environmentally friendly priorities like not wasting precious food resources. Add liquid assets – money to you and me – clawed back from corporate tax avoidance and offshore bank accounts. Then cook your People Power Soup and share with anyone who needs it, seasoned with fairness and compassion. Enjoy!