Food & Wellbeing

Children’s Food Campaign

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Government urged to keep feeding children during school holidays

By Barbara Crowther, Co-ordinator for the Children’s Food Campaign

Charities, organisations and education unions have called on Education Secretary to announce additional funding for continued food provision during the forthcoming school half-term and summer holidays.

In a joint letter to the Secretary of State Gavin Williamson MP and Schools Minister Vicky Ford MP, the  organisations point to recent figures from the Food Foundation that show around 2 million children across the UK are directly experiencing some level of food insecurity or hunger. Before the crisis, 1.3 million children in England were eligible for benefit-related free school meals, however a further 1.4 million families have applied for Universal Credit since the start of the outbreak.

Campaign Co-ordinator for the Children’s Food Campaign Barbara Crowther says, “Hunger does not know the difference between term time and school holidays, and the Government’s support for families should be continuous through this crisis. Given the scale of food and income insecurity being experienced by so many families, it is critical that the Government makes national level funding available to cover all the school holidays until the start of the new academic year.”

The Welsh Government has already committed £33m additional funding to cover all holidays until the end of August, which is equivalent to holiday provision of £19.50 per week per child eligible for support. However, in England, the Department for Education has so far only committed to £9m funding for pilot holiday food projects in a few selected areas, with successful funding bidders still to be announced. In the letter, the organisations say this is not enough and a national level holiday provision funding formula is now needed “at a level sufficient to expand provision of free school meals substitutes, and to the National School Breakfast Programme, to cover all holiday periods across the whole of England until end of August.”

The Government did extend funding to allow the national school voucher programme for England to cover Easter holidays. The organisations are arguing that giving more advance notice for forthcoming holiday periods would allow schools, academy trusts and local authorities to make better plans with their relevant food and catering suppliers, or alternative voucher/cash support provision, with confidence that they will have the funds to deliver.

More information about Sustain’s Children’s Food Campaign and a list of the organisations who have signed up is available here

More information about the GM Food Poverty Action Plan is available here

 

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Assessing the Government’s Food Measures During COVID-19

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By Tom Skinner

A Parliament inquiry last week called for evidence on COVID-19 and food supply. I was asked to help Greater Manchester’s response to this call, answering the question, “Are the Government and food industry doing enough to support people to access sufficient healthy food; and are any groups not having their needs met? If not, what further steps should the Government and food industry take?” Here is what I wrote:

Central Government efforts to provide food for up to 1.5m extremely vulnerable people shielding from COVID 19 is welcome, although there have been challenges around ensuring local authorities are fully aware of who is  in receipt of support from the government’s scheme. This has made it difficult to ensure local responses are coordinated and complementary to the national scheme.

The biggest concern however is that the number of people in need far exceeds that list, both because the criteria exclude some people who have serious health conditions (there should be a larger semi-shielded list of people who, even if they turn down or are ineligible for food packages from the Government, are still prioritised for other services and access to supermarkets), and because they don’t consider low income or other related socioeconomic factors. More than three million people reported going hungry in the first three weeks of the UK’s COVID-19 lockdown alone. Greater Manchester Poverty Action’s own survey of food support providers early in the COVID-19 crisis showed increased demand for their services, but concerns about the food supply and a major decrease in volunteer capacity that will have worsened further since the lockdown started.

The £3.25m grant for redistributing surplus food has helped to allay some of the worst fears about food supply to public sector and VCSE food providers, but food banks in several areas of Greater Manchester have still been running dangerously low on supplies and have had to buy food in, either depleting their own cash reserves or relying on bailouts from their local authorities. This financial hit compounds the impact of austerity in which those councils with the most financially vulnerable populations also experienced the harshest cuts, and there is significant concern that the “Fair Funding Review” could continue or even accelerate that trend. These concerns about local authority and voluntary and community and social enterprise (VCSE) finances in Greater Manchester risk undermining the city region’s determination to provide for all of its citizens and to transition out of this crisis with a shared approach to reducing food poverty. A commitment to bolster funding for councils in the future, to meet the needs of their low-income and other vulnerable households (including but not limited to ring-fenced and better funded Local Welfare Assistance Schemes) is a missing pillar of the Government’s COVID-19 response.

Household income itself remains a barrier to accessing food, despite many welcome moves from the Government – the furlough scheme, the end of the benefits freeze, the increase in support through Universal Credit and Working Tax Credit and the extra funding to councils to meet increased demand for support with paying council tax. The removal of the requirement for Healthy Start applications to have a signature from a health worker is welcome, and we encourage the Government to move as quickly as possible to launching the system for online applications, as well as setting targets to increase uptake.

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

However the 5 week wait for Universal Credit continues to increase household food insecurity, as does the 2-child limit. We also advocate substantially increasing Child Benefit and scrapping the benefit cap that limits the total amount of support a household can receive through the benefit system.

Tom Skinner
Director, GM Poverty Action

 

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Healthy Start vouchers

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Healthy Start Vouchers – Applications Made Simpler

Families can now apply for Healthy Start food vouchers without a health professional’s signature on the form, as was previously required.

Healthy Start is the UK’s food welfare scheme for pregnant women and young children in low-income families. The vouchers, worth £3.10 per week, can be used to purchase fresh fruit and vegetables, milk or infant formula, and vitamin coupons are issued in addition. The application process and other issues have limited their reach, with uptake between 51% and 62% in Greater Manchester’s boroughs, charted by GM Combine Authority. This means many families are currently missing out, costing close to an estimated £4m per year across GM.

However, the regulations around the application process have now been changed, so Healthy Start application forms (which can be found here) no longer require a health professional to complete and sign Part B. These new regulations are welcome during the Covid-19 pandemic, as families at risk of food poverty desperately need support to buy healthy food, and health professionals are already at capacity.

“Low-income families need to be able to access all available support during this time of economic and social upheaval, so the timing of the new regulation is very welcomed as they will enable pregnant women, parents and carers to apply without having to seek out a health professional. Simplifying the application process is something that’s been needed for years and we are so glad to see it happening now, when it is vital to improve food access for our most vulnerable families,” says Maddie Guerlain of Sustain.

We are calling on relevant agencies across Greater Manchester to do all they can to make more residents aware of the scheme, and help eligible residents to apply. There will be a Food Power webinar at 11am on Tuesday 28th April for those wanting to find out more, including an update on upcoming digitisation plans and case studies from two food partnerships on how they’ve been working to increase take up locally. The webinar will be recorded so if you cannot attend the live session, you can register anyway to receive a link to the recording later in the week.

Find out more about Healthy Start vouchers and how to apply here.

 

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Supporting food provision

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Supporting coordination of food provision during COVID-19
By Tom Skinner

I represent GMPA on the GM Food Response Core Team*, taking the lead (with 10GM) on understanding VCSE sector food providers’ response to COVID-19, and helping them and local authorities to work together more closely and effectively. GMPA ran a survey of VCSE food providers at the start of the lockdown, providing valuable intelligence to shape each borough’s response systems.

*The Core Team, established last month, includes representatives from the NHS, GM Combined Authority, 10GM, Food Sync, One Manchester and others. Its role is to support the boroughs’ food provision activities, providing intelligence and helping them to learn from each other (and the VCSE sector), and to join up and share resources. It brings Local Authority Food Leads and VCSE infrastructure organisations together in a weekly Food Leads meeting, which feeds into Greater Manchester’s Humanitarian Assistance Group.

At the start of this month I wrote a paper for the Humanitarian Assistance Group recommending actions to support VCSE food providers during the COVID-19 crisis, including:

  1. Assuring a robust supply of food;
  2. Helping to provide access to facilities for storing and distributing chilled and frozen food;
  3. Funding and in-kind resource to maintain and expand activities;
  4. Additional volunteer capacity;
  5. Reliable health and safety guidelines and measures;
  6. Coordination between public services and VCSE food providers.

Half of these recommendations have already been agreed for action, and the others set aside for more detailed discussions in the Food Leads meetings.

I have also been connecting VCSE food providers with local authorities and offers of support such as food, volunteering and equipment.

This role is essential in helping Greater Manchester to make use of the food that is on offer to people in need of support, and I am pleased that our work coordinating the GM Food Poverty Alliance has put us in a position to do this.

However there is much more to be done here, including facilitating meaningful open conversations about the desired long-term set-up, how to tackle the underlying causes of food poverty, and the sustainable roles of local government, VCSE sector food providers, and other stakeholders including people who have experience of food poverty (the 7th recommendation in my paper). I am therefore delighted to be able to share a job opportunity for a Food Poverty Coordinator who will join GMPA’s team and work with me to help Greater Manchester develop an effective response to food poverty, now and in the long-term.

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner

Tom Skinner
Director, Greater Manchester Poverty Action

 

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Mustard Tree is open

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By Jack Barton

Mustard Tree is currently still open! We’re operating as key workers under the categories of food distribution and front-line services. We’re now providing an emergency food offer, supported by our volunteers – here’s George out on one of our very first deliveries.

We want to take the opportunity to say a huge THANK YOU to our partners for all your positivity and encouragement. We’ve been around for the last 25 years – combating poverty and preventing homelessness – and working to our values of Belief, Dignity, Opportunity, Diversity and Partnership. We think these values are more relevant than ever and we are committed to continuing to support people across Greater Manchester at this time.

COVID-19 response

  • We are delivering 100 emergency food parcels and Food Club items a day to vulnerable people across
    Manchester and Salford;
  • We are providing 30 essential toiletries packs a day to rough sleepers visiting our hubs in Ancoats,
    Little Hulton and Eccles;
  • We are serving 20 people a day through our onsite Food Club, which provides cost-effective food for
    families and individuals struggling to make ends meet;
  • We are offering advice and guidance for people in need coming to our hubs, including signposting to
    partners and translations of Public Health England guidance into different languages;
  • We are continuing to support vulnerable people accessing our structured vocational training project.

If you can help, you can click on either of this links to provide food donations or financial donations.

Thank you 

Mustard Tree helps people to change their lives, secure better accommodation and economic wellbeingOur focus is on tackling both the causes and consequences of poverty and homelessness. Since 1994 we have created opportunities for people to help themselves through providing practical support, friendship, connections into work and improvements to health & wellbeing, alongside new experiences to encourage aspiration.

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Food Poverty Action Plan Year 1

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Year 1 of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan

By Tom Skinner

GMFPA logo cropped for GM Poverty AllianceIt is a year since we launched the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan with 150 people and organisations who had co-produced the Action Plan in our Food Poverty Alliance project. This article reviews the first year of progress towards the Plan’s vision, that “everyone in Greater Manchester enjoys good food and a better standard of living, and they look out for each other.”

Through the Food Poverty Alliance, 50 individuals and organisations have made over 100 pledges of action towards the Action Plan’s vision, including:

  • Apex Storage making five storage units available for individuals and businesses to donate unwanted cooking
    and gardening equipment
    that Cracking Good Food pass on to communities in need;
  • Kellogg’s reaching 70 local schools with breakfast club grants;
  • Sow the City mapping food provision in North Manchester – they have recently been commissioned to map in
    South Manchester as well, and aim to support mapping across GM;
  • The Salford Food Share Network supporting other boroughs to consider the potential for partnerships between
    food banks, food clubs and pantries, advice agencies, the council and other stakeholders;
  • Several Housing associations, councils and charities coordinating provision of food with activities for children
    and young people during school holidays.

We are working closely with most councils across GM, as well as GM Mayor Andy Burnham, the GM Combined Authority and the Health & Social Care Partnership, to discuss actions that can be taken by the public sector at the GM and borough level. For example, Tameside has:

  • established a strategic food partnership with food poverty as one of its themes;
  • included questions about food poverty in its public consultation survey and commissioned qualitative research
    to help understand how food poverty impacts residents, and the challenges for food banks and food pantries;
  • taken action (which is ongoing) to increase uptake of Healthy Start vouchers.

Another important activity has been to embed food poverty, and the Action Plan specifically, in the wider efforts to develop a comprehensive food strategy for the city region. These efforts are being led by GM’s strategic food board Good Food Greater Manchester, of which GMPA is a member. We are currently exploring how efforts to tackle food poverty can complement other sections of the food strategy, and are supporting a series of workshops to develop a cohesive and widely supported strategy.

Since the launch of the Action Plan, GMPA has seen encouraging increased interest in tackling poverty at a local level. Some local authorities are developing and implementing anti-poverty strategies, and there is significant interest in engaging people with lived experience of poverty in decision making e.g. through poverty truth commissions. We continue to campaign for employers across the city region to tackle in-work poverty by becoming accredited Living Wage Employers and signing up to the GM Good Employment Charter. There are now over 200 accredited Living Wage Employers based here, including Salford, Oldham and Manchester councils – see page 2 for more news from the GM Living Wage Campaign, another GMPA project.

Tom Skinner editorial article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, Director, GM Poverty Action

While I am delighted with the progress made in the first year of the Action Plan, there is much more to be done and GMPA remains committed to tackling food poverty and its underlying causes.

Tom Skinner,
Director, GM Poverty Action

 

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Tackling poverty: NHS

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Help us to inform the way the NHS tackles poverty

On March 27th, our director Graham Whitham will be attending a workshop at the King’s Fund in London exploring what more the NHS can do to tackle poverty. The workshop will bring together a diverse group of stakeholders with knowledge, expertise and experience of working with those in poverty, people from the NHS, and those who work in partnership with it.

The NHS Long-Term Plan sets out important commitments to reducing inequalities in health.  As part of this NHS England and Improvement want to do more to understand and maximise the NHS’ role in tackling poverty. This builds on previous work, including the King’s Fund report, Tackling poverty: Making more of the NHS in England, which set out how the NHS can tackle the risk of, and mitigate the impact of poverty in many ways, from its treatment impact to its role as an economic giant in every community.

This workshop will help inform:

  • the development of practical resources for local NHS leaders and institutions
  • strengthening the strategic case for the NHS to see tackling poverty as a core issue
  • supporting the NHS to work more closely with partners on poverty, with ultimate impacts in improving the
    health of those in, or at risk of, poverty

The King’s Fund will co-host this workshop with the Equality and Health Inequalities Team at NHS England and
Improvement.

GMPA is keen to support this work, and we know there is a lot of learning from work in Greater Manchester that could help inform the conversation. With the publication of the recent Marmot: Ten years on report, it is vital that we make stronger links between health and poverty.

In order to contribute as much as we can to the workshop we are asking people in our network to share information with us in advance. Graham will feed this into the discussion on March 27th, crediting organisations and individuals where appropriate.

Graham W NHS tackling poverty article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham
Director of GMPA

Please share any good examples of current or recent case studies, reports or wider work where the NHS has tackled poverty successfully with partners in Greater Manchester. If you have a report/project site/short description of the work you are doing that you would be willing to share, please email Graham  by Friday March 20th.

 

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Salford Health Improvement Service

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Using public health delivery to address poverty in Salford

By Angela Eden, Health Improvement Manager

Salford City CouncilIntroduction

Salford Health Improvement Service is a frontline, neighbourhood-based health and wellbeing service which delivers a range of community initiatives, courses and programmes to help people make behaviour changes.  Our core areas of work most often cover topics such as stop smoking, weight support, healthy eating, physical activity and mental health. Recently the service has worked closely with our partners within the City Council and voluntary sector to develop a strategic approach to targeting the Health Improvement resource to address the impact of poverty on residents in the city. This meant thinking about innovative ways of delivering the service.

There are 30 frontline staff with the Health Improvement Service who have strong networks and trusted relationships within the local communities in which they work. These staff have a long history of working ‘with’ residents to develop community initiatives that really matter to local people, and of successfully delivering services that bring about real changes to people’s lives.

Following a series of co-production workshops with frontline staff, key actions and tasks have been built into the Health Improvement Service’s existing delivery plans, to contribute towards the Salford Anti-Poverty Strategy.

Implementation of actions

Here are some examples of the initiatives that were delivered by the Health Improvement Service to support the delivery of the Anti-poverty Agenda:

  • The service ensured that all staff and volunteers received sufficient training to be able to provide basic key
    messages and referral to Welfare Rights and Debt Advice, Salford Assist, Affordable Warmth and Salford Credit Union. Key messages were built into all HIS community programmes in order to increase financial literacy within Salford.
  • The service used marketing on social media by including key messages about anti-poverty support services to reduce stigma and encourage members of the public to get in touch. This also included the promotion of free Wi-Fi zones throughout Salford. Awareness raising road shows with partners to place on estates with the highest levels of poverty improved access to the above-mentioned schemes. In addition, Health Improvement frontline staff delivered anti-poverty brief interventions when delivering workplace health programmes, particularly focussing on lower paid workforces.
  • The service worked in partnership with the Salford Food Share Network to deliver four ‘Cooking on a Budget’ and two ‘Positive You (confidence building)’ courses specifically for residents using Food Clubs.
  • All staff within the service have been encouraged to join the Salford Credit Union in order to support this valuable resource.
  • The service continues to work to harness the strength of local communities to lead community action to tackle poverty through frontline community development, as well as delivering and promoting activities in communities that provide an opportunity to eat together’ or ‘grow your own’.
  • The service has delivered a Winter Resilience outreach programme to proactively identify and support vulnerable older people who may be at risk of fuel poverty.
  • Health Improvement has worked with partners to create the Healthy Holiday Voucher Scheme for families who are eligible for Free School Meals. These families received a £30 Aldi voucher per child. In the first year the scheme reached over 40% of eligible families.Conclusion

    Agela Eden, using public health delivery to address poverty in Salford

    Angela Eden

    This project has been a useful example of how a service and staffing resource can be flexed to respond quickly to a particular priority, in this case poverty and the growing impact of welfare reform. It has been possible to demonstrate that a public health service has been able to make small but significant contributions to the Anti-Poverty agenda in Salford. The actions delivered through the project were co-produced with the staff who would be carrying out the direct delivery, and as such resulted in a number of practical, deliverable solutions that had the potential to make a real difference to some of our most vulnerable residents. For more information please contact Angela Eden.

     

 

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The Good Food Bag

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By Jenni Pocsai, Operations Manager, The Good Food Bag

The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan (March 2019) calls for local partnerships to set up more food clubs, especially in areas that lack affordable healthy food.  There has been a positive increase since this plan was published and there are now 49 food clubs and pantries where at the time of the report, there were only 30.  Food clubs and pantries help those who are struggling and could end up at crisis point or relying on food banks.

There is a new venture setting out to further help this group of people. The Good Food Bag is a social enterprise partnership between Irwell Valley Homes and One Manchester dedicated to disrupting the food economy, to help those affected by the poverty premium to access good, convenient ingredients to cook great meals at home.   By providing choice with great value, we see a massive benefit for those who may be otherwise at the mercy of convenience foods.

The idea is simple, you can order a recipe kit — classic meals to feed as many or as few people as you wish — via text and pick it up at dedicated collection points close to work or home when it suits you.  We are at the start of a 12-month pilot to see where and how this idea can have the most impact.

The Good Food Bag welcomes a new Operations Manager, Jenni Pocsai.  She comes with a wealth of knowledge and enthusiasm as well as a love of great food.  This appointment means we are one step closer to being ready to trade!

The plan is to be trading by March 2020 and we are looking to our partners to help this process along. If you are interested in helping us make The Good Food Bag amazing, please get in touch to let us know where you’d like to see us trading and making a difference to people’s lives.  You can get in touch via our website

 

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Growing food for community use

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By Kalwant Gill-Faci

GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan calls for more food to be grown in GM communities, for sharing with people in need across the city region. In this article Kal Gill-Faci shows what can be done with even a relatively small plot of land.

At the launch of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action plan in March this year, I was volunteering at the charity Pledge and I pledged to continue my work helping homeless people and those suffering food poverty through my allotment in Trafford. This year we took on another half plot which we dedicated 100% for growing exclusively to donate to charities that support those in need.

Kalwant Gill-Faci photo for GM Poverty Action

Kalwant Gill-Faci

The Plot for Poverty (Plot 7F) located at Humphrey Park Allotments in Stretford grows fruit and vegetables exclusively for donations and this year we partnered with the charity Reach out to the Community.

Weekly donations were delivered between mid-June to mid-November to the shop where food parcels are made up and handed out. A women-only hostel also received donations this year. Work on the plot is carried out all year round with the busiest months being February to August. I am ably assisted by my 2 children and my nephew’s son and their contribution has been a massive help!

This is the third year that this work has continued and each year the donations have increased. In addition, we received a grant of approximately £500 from Trafford Housing Trusts’ Social Investment Fund which was used to purchase much needed tools, materials and gardening supplies.

I also collect donations from the wider allotment community at Humphrey Park Allotments for distribution and the result is a car boot load almost every week!

This year we helped to provide an estimated 500+ food parcels during the 5-month period of donations.

I continue to share my work as much as possible through social media and speaking at conferences and events.

For any questions or enquiries about my work please send me an email

 

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