Food & Wellbeing

End Hunger UK – Conference 2018

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A growing movement? End Hunger UK conference 2018
By Dr Charlie Spring, University of Sheffield

On World Food Day 2018, the End Hunger UK campaign convened its second annual conference in Westminster to discuss the growing movement around household food insecurity in the UK. A broad coalition of food aid providers, think tanks, faith leaders, researchers, local authorities, artists and diverse experts by experience, End Hunger represents a national effort to galvanise public and policy attention to evidently large numbers of people struggling to afford adequate food. We don’t know how large; one panel discussed the ongoing Bill to measure food insecurity nationally via the ONS Living Costs and Food Survey. It is hoped such monitoring would give a more robust sense of the scale and severity of UK food poverty, to be tracked against changes including Universal Credit rollout and Brexit.

Power of stories and frames

A key theme of the day, however, was the power of stories and images over stats in capturing public and policy attention to food poverty, its causes and solutions. A collaborative photo exhibition, ‘Behind Closed Doors’, has toured the UK with portraits and research into experiences of food insecurity, some displayed at the conference and ending in the House of Commons. We heard young poets recite moving submissions to a recent poetry competition. The Food Foundation are collecting submissions of lived experiences towards their Children’s Future Food Inquiry, while the Independent Food Aid Network (IFAN) aim to build an online Story Bank of lived experiences of food insecurity.

A panel led by Church Action on Poverty reported research by JRF and the FrameWorks Institute into effective ways to shift public discourse about poverty. Countering individualising, blame-and-shame accounts requires keying into commonly-held beliefs about the injustice of poverty and government’s responsibility to protect against it, using well-chosen examples and stories rather than relying on numbers alone.

Whose problem?

Coordinated by Sustain’s Food Power programme, partnership structures such as the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance have been forming around the UK to ask how food poverty might be addressed at local and regional levels. The End Hunger UK gathering therefore required us to think about scales of responsibility for preventing poverty. I heard discussions about how local networks of food banks might better share their food supplies as demand increases. It was encouraging to hear food bank leaders discuss exit strategies over the next few years, and we must help them to realise these goals as my research shows how difficult this has been in the US and Canada

Some alliances expressed frustration at local authorities producing poverty strategies yet lacking any funds to turn aims into actions. Public health workers have conducted needs assessments and written proposals that end up ignored by senior colleagues. Yet, affecting national government and company policies that affect benefit and wage levels felt too tough a goal for many of the local alliances I spoke to. End Hunger UK, then, provides one lens through which to target a palpable collective anger. Another potential shared voice was offered by the school students of Blackburn and Darwen who have been organising as part of Food Power’s efforts to involve experts by experience in campaigning. The girls, who shared their stories for a short film, are launching a campaign Darwen Gets Hangry, which they hope will encourage others to turn their own experiences of shame and guilt about being food-poor- or ‘hangry’- into something collective and targeted that can spread to other parts of the UK.

Food Power Conference report by Charlie Spring for GM Poverty Action

Charlie Spring

The girls shared a panel with a group of asylum seekers from Luton who are also part of End Hunger UK, who formed a growing group after seeking Red Cross food parcels and now cook their produce as community meals. One lady, still seeking asylum after 16 years, told us she understands why some of the families she meets spend their money on drugs, even before food; they don’t have enough love, she said, or motivation and opportunities. Her expression of shared purpose with the Darwen girls to counter government indifference, gave a hopeful sense that the divisive forces of Brexit and far-right populism might be countered by intersectional
struggles of solidarity against the erosion of public entitlements and the human right to decent food.

This is an abridged version of an article that Charlie wrote for the Realising Just Cities blog – you can see the full version here

 

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Your Local Pantry

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“It’s more than just a full tummy, it’s a massive link in the community”
Stockport Homes Pantry article for GM Poverty Action

Stockport Homes opened the doors to its first pantry in 2014. This was a time of welfare reform and the surge in food bank vouchers allocated in Stockport made it apparent that there needed to be another option available, one that would help and support people before they reached crisis point.  It was hoped that the pantry model could help relieve financial pressure in people’s lives, and be a sustainable resource that would bring communities together.

Stockport Homes Pantry article for GM Poverty Action The pantry is a volunteer led, community food resource with local residents signing up as members and paying a small weekly subscription fee (£3.50 in Stockport). In return for this, members can visit the pantry once a week and select their own items from a wide variety of goods. This includes chilled, frozen, dairy, fresh meat and fish, fresh fruit and veg and all the usual store cupboard favourites. These items are often worth in excess of £15.00 at retail value.

The ethos of the pantry is to offer dignity and choice:
•  Offers a hand up not a hand down – we are not a foodbank or crisis provision, we aim to prevent people from reaching this point.

•  Provide access to holistic, wrap around support linked to areas such as money advice, housing, health and employment and skills

•  Community led – members and volunteers keep our shelves stocked and our pantries open and as such must be at the heart of pantry development empowering themselves and their local communities by co-running their own Pantries.

•  The volunteer scheme supports people back in to paid employment

Stockport Homes Pantry article for GM Poverty Action

Stockport Homes Brinnington Pantry.

All money raised is reinvested straight back in to the project, paying for the day-to-day costs as well as raising a small surplus. This surplus allows the pantry to buy additional stock and essential equipment where required. The majority of our stock comes from FareShare, a national charity who redistribute surplus stock from large supermarkets and food manufacturers to projects like ourselves.

As at September 2018, four pantries were open in Stockport, with a further one scheduled before the end of the financial year.

The pantry network has a significant impact on local communities, with 9266 individual visits to the four pantries in 2017/2018 generating a collective saving of £115,825.

Its 25-30 strong group of volunteers from the local community and Stockport Homes’ staff have donated 4,735 hours during 2017-2018, covering everything from the cash office, supporting customers with their pantry shopping, behind the scenes administration and receiving/sorting deliveries.

Many other social landlords and community groups are now interested in replicating our model through the Your Local Pantry social franchise. Over 30 pantry style schemes are now operating in Greater Manchester with many more coming on board from across the UK.

The package includes help and support setting up from a dedicated officer, bespoke software, volunteer hand book and a full operations guide. To find out more about this exciting opportunity contact Anna Jones  0161 474 4760

Church Action on Poverty (CAP) manage the social franchise on behalf of Stockport Homes, to help people to set up community cooperative food stores nationwide. To discuss what is included in the package of support and costs, please contact CAP via laura@church-poverty.org.uk or telephone 0161 872-9294.

For more information about all food providers across Greater Manchester please visit GMPA’s map.

 

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Existence of foodbanks tells us all we need to know

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By Graham Whitham

Last week it was reported that government ministers have drawn up plans to investigate how many people are being forced to seek emergency food support and the reasons why .

For many people this will feel several years too late, as the huge growth in foodbanks since 2010 has provided ample evidence that the social security system is broken and that many households are unable to make ends meet.

The number of foodbanks in operation, and the number of people accessing them, has increased over a prolonged period during which wages have stagnated, people have felt less secure in work, local authority budgets have been slashed, benefits have been cut, living costs have risen and the use of benefit sanctions has increased.

The response of society to these problems and the resultant increase in hardship has been nothing short of incredible. Groups of people, often led by volunteers, have come together to find ways to meet people’s basic food needs. In 2012 there were 200 Trussell Trust foodbanks in operation across the UK, they now operate over 400. In 2013, one estimate suggested there were 60 emergency food providers in Greater Manchester. GMPA’s Emergency Food Providers Map  shows there are now at least 171 (most of which are independent providers run by localcommunity groups).

This is an incredible societal response. However, it is not a substitute for an effective social security system that prevents people from falling into hardship in the first place. A proper policy response is required from government, one that acknowledges the consequences of a stripped back and punitive benefits system and starts to heed concerns about the rollout of Universal Credit.

Government plans to investigate the causes of increased foodbank use represents an important step towards recognising the need for fundamental reforms to the social security system that can help fix the broken safety net and provide a platform on which we can drive down poverty.

There are things the government could do today to help address the hardship people are facing.

Graham W UK poverty strategy article for GM Poverty Action

Graham Whitham

A Child Poverty Action Group report out this week shows how simply design flaws with the monthly assessment of pay and circumstances (flaws the government were warned about back in 2012) in Universal Credit are pushing people into debt and hardship. Design flaws the government could address now.

Reinstating the scrapped discretionary Social Fund, ending the two child limit on benefits, introducing the yellow card system for benefit sanctions and making sure people on Universal Credit keep much more of their earnings are all measures that would help alleviate financial hardship.

In a week when the Trussell Trust have been calling for extra donations to help them meet increased need during the summer holidays, it is clear that many households in the UK are being pushed into unnecessary hardship and that we need a swift response from government.

 

 

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Reflections on the Food Power conference

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Charlie Spring, chair of the “Measuring and Monitoring” sub-group of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, represented us at the first ever conference of Food Power, the national body of food poverty alliances.

Food Power Conference report by Charlie Spring for GM Poverty Action

Charlie Spring

As the work of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance gets underway, it’s a great time to learn from the challenges and successes of alliances around the country. Food Power is part of Sustain’s long-term work building fairer and more sustainable food systems, and has helped to fund the formation of over 50 alliances, from Aberdeen to Kernow (Cornwall), and ranging in size from Lockleaze ward in Bristol to an alliance covering the whole of South Wales.

A blistering day in Cardiff City Hall held an intense day of talks, workshops and discussions about how collective work can add value to existing efforts to tackle inequality and poverty. To open a workshop on developing action plans, I presented the structure we’ve adopted to organise ourselves in Greater Manchester, as themed sub-groups working to develop specific aims and actions within the coordinating fold of the Driver Group, the influence and barrier-busting work of the Reference Group and the scrutiny of the Diversity Group to ensure our processes and aims address multiple dimensions of food poverty for different groups.

We heard from cities further along the action planning and delivery process, such as Brighton whose action plan progress report has just been published. Some have conducted action research, some have worked to embed food poverty into council strategies and others have acted to galvanise the work of diverse organisations from holiday hunger programmes to community cafes.

A key concern was around the value and challenges of involving people with lived experience in building the movement. We were shown a powerful film of school students in Blackburn/Darwen who demonstrated the value of such involvement in shifting their sense that poverty is something that happens abroad, or that only affects homeless people. Memories of the shame one girl experienced receiving free school meals were transformed into gratitude for such entitlement and, with it, anger that such entitlement could be taken away. Learning to see their own ‘food poverty’ in the context of Food Power had empowered them to understand their own experiences as a form of expertise that could be used to create systemic change. However, others questioned the language of ‘food poverty’- do people have to define themselves in terms of a lack, or should we instead use the term food  inequality? Or, is food/fuel/period poverty simply poverty, with food a useful lens to create community and collective activism? Or, as Kath Dalmeny powerfully argued, should we centre our work on the Right to Food, a right which the UK government has signed up to protect and fulfil? Maybe it’s lawyers who should be calling leaders to account on poor hospital food, or mushrooming emergency food demand in the wake of Universal Credit rollout. People-powered, food-powered change: about maximising family income, defending services and, given that environmental and social injustice are closely related, protecting the soil to ensure future food supplies.

I left with new ideas on evaluating the added value of working in partnership (new jargon e.g. ‘collective impact’, and a new task of making sure everyone understands it!). I learned about the work of organisations and projects I was unfamiliar with – Alexandra Rose (vouchers for fresh food), Leapfrog (tools for engagement) and a story of how Luton’s Community Food Hub enabled segregated communities to challenge their stereotypes and resentments by sharing strawberry-growing skills.

At a time of Brexit and migration debates, food and meal sharing can be a way to transform narratives about the real causes of poverty and bring oppressed communities together rather than blaming each other. But I’ll give the final word to Welsh Government Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Mark Drakeford. He described the mixture of rage and gratitude he feels for community organisations providing free food and clothes for families who otherwise would be unable to send their kids to school for lack of uniforms. He described the powerful work of Food And Fun, the Welsh Government-supported holiday hunger programme providing healthy meals, nutrition skills and sports at ever-growing numbers of schools. He concluded with a reminder that devolved administrations’ hands are tied – they, and we, do not control the benefits system and ultimate responsibility lies with Westminster. However, we can ensure we best use our services to “mitigate the roughest edges of growing up in poverty”. We can only do what we can.

You can read more about the Food Power conference, and download presentations, here.

 

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GMFPA Surveys

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Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance

Please tell us about action on holiday hunger and strategic work on food in each borough

GMPA’s Food Poverty Alliance already has over 100 organisations working together on a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester – you can join us here if you haven’t already – so we have a good understanding of the range of actions on food poverty across the city region. However, there are two areas that we need to understand better at this stage, so have worked with Greater Together Manchester and FareShare Greater Manchester to produce two surveys and are asking everyone who might have relevant information to respond and share widely:

1 School Holiday Activities and Food Provision

To be completed by every organisation involved in school holiday food provision in Greater Manchester.

Holiday hunger is a situation that occurs when a child’s household is, or will become, food insecure during the school holidays. It is estimated that 3 million children are at risk of holiday hunger in the UK. We want to find out more about the organisations providing school holiday activities and food provision across Greater Manchester. We will use the information provided in this questionnaire to better understand the scope of current provision and how this relates to the areas of greatest need. We will also be able to look strategically at gaps in provision and work with partners to address this. Please fill in and share the survey here

2 Addressing Food Poverty – Existing Strategic Work

To be completed by every local authority, third sector infrastructure organisation, and anyone else who is collaborating on responses to food poverty in their area of Greater Manchester.

We know that a great deal of strategic and coordination work is carried out in many boroughs of Greater Manchester, however food is often addressed in policies that primarily focus on other topics. We therefore want to understand all of the existing strategic policy and coordination work that mentions or includes food in any way. We will use the information provided in this questionnaire to understand how food policy is embedded in other policies, and what coordination work is carried out in each borough, so as to better work together and develop complementary strategies. Please fill in and share the survey here

 

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Update from GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance

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Following a successful launch and empowerment evening, the real work of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance has begun.  The work of the Alliance is now being coordinated across several subgroups who will co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester.

The Action Plan, to be launched early next year, will be co-produced by people from each borough of Greater Manchester, including experts by experience – people who have lived experience of food poverty. It will set ambitious but achievable aims for Greater Manchester to tackle food poverty, and a clear set of actions needed to achieve these aims. As we identify people and organisations whose support will be needed, we will ask them to work with us now in developing solutions, rather than simply presenting a set of actions to them at the end of the year.

Six themed sub-groups have been tasked with developing their own sections of the Plan – this table shows some of the themes that they will cover, and information on how to get involved. Everyone who receives this newsletter will be welcome to any or all of these meetings, even if you are not on the Alliance or sub-group’s mailing list, but please do email the chairperson(s), copying in GMPA at food@gmpovertyaction.org so they know to expect you, and so they can include you in future communications.

Themed sub-group:  Place-based access to food:
Topics include:  Research into areas of GM that lack healthy and affordable food options
Chair:    Graham Whitham
Meetings: Has met twice, next meeting to be confirmed (TBC)

Themed sub-group:  Children experiencing food poverty
Topics include:  Access to fresh, sustainable healthy food during both term times and holidays. Food education both inside and outside schools
Chair:    Dominic Coleman   Letitia Rose
Meetings: Has met twice, next meeting 21st July

Themed sub-group:  Causes of food poverty
Topics include:  Benefits, support, advice and in-work poverty.  The food system and food supply chain mechanisms
Chair:    Dr Mags Adams;    Secretary:  Nayan Joshi
Meetings:  Has met twice, next meeting October 2nd 11am – 1pm Church House:

Themed sub-group:  Food banks and beyond
Topics include:  Coordination between social food and food aid providers. Sharing good practise and exploring new models
Chair:    Lily Axworthy
Meetings:Has met twice, next meeting TBC

Themed sub-group:  Measuring and monitoring food poverty
Topics include:  Measuring food poverty. Monitoring actions taken to reduce food poverty
Chair:    Charlie Spring
Meetings:  Has met once. Next meeting 6 – 8pm, Monday July 9th, MMU

Themed sub-group:  Skills and training for people in poverty
Topics include:  Cooking skills; Access to food/skills; Employment;  Food production
Chair:    Adele Jordan    Maggie Lister    Helen Walker
Meetings:  Has met twice, next meeting TBC

Tom for GMFPA article for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director

There is also the Driver Group which coordinates the process, the Reference Group for people in positions of power and influence who can help to address any issues that the sub-groups identify, and the Diversity Group, which will advise the other sub-groups about how to address food poverty for everyone (please email Atiha Chaudry, to join this group).

It is clear that there is a great appetite for action on hunger, so please join us in this coordinated and strategic work to tackle food poverty together.

The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance is hosted by GMPA. The project will develop a Food Poverty Strategy for Greater Manchester which will be published early next year. 

 

 

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GM Food Poverty Alliance

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The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance is off to a Great Start!

GMPA were delighted to launch the Food Poverty Alliance at a packed Methodist Central Hall last week. Individuals with their own experiences of food poverty and representatives from councils, charities and businesses, all came together with one aim – fighting food poverty in Greater Manchester.

Bishop John Arnold for GM Food Poverty Alliance for GM Poverty Action

Bishop John Arnold

Bishop John Arnold who will chair one of the alliance’s groups, said, “Food poverty is a scandal that reflects on all of us. Working together we can make a difference to Greater Manchester.” He went on to thank all those already involved in making a difference but added that a city region like Greater Manchester should not need to have over 170 food banks.

The aim of the alliance in the first year is to co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester that will aim to:

• Reduce and prevent food poverty

• Support communities to plan and adapt to the challenge of food poverty

• Address structural issues that underlie food poverty, such as the benefits system and precarious and low-paid employment

The launch event was based around group discussions, encouraging everyone to play their part in developing the Action Plan. The first group discussion discussed a set of principles that should guide the way we work together.

Full room at GM Food Poverty Alliance launch for GM Poverty ActionWe broke up into seven groups for the second set of workshops, based on different aspects or themes of food poverty, and discussed what the Action Plan should aim to do for Greater Manchester on each theme. Our starting question was, “If all of Greater Manchester were to get behind the work of the Food Poverty Alliance, what could we achieve?” The aims that have emerged from those discussions are as ambitious as we hoped, and come from a real understanding of the issues, the challenges and the possible solutions.

JO Wilson at GMFPA for GM Poverty Action

Jo Wilson, Co-production and Policy Officer at the GM Mayor’s Office, compered the event

We were also due to hear from local writer and campaigner Charlotte Hughes on her own experience of food poverty, but she was unable to attend, so we have featured her story on page three of this newsletter as part of our Beyond Poverty series.

Tom Skinner at the GMFPA launch for GM Poverty Action

Greater Manchester Poverty Action Director, Tom Skinner

To have gathered so many people, and to have a hall so full of energy, passion and great ideas, was a perfect way to start this work together. The Driver Group (see next page) will now develop a brief for each themed sub-group based on their discussions at the event, and then each sub-group will continue meeting to develop a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester, which will be launched early next year.

Please read on to see how you can get involved.

Back on Track at the Food Poverty Alliance launch for GM Poverty Action

Back on Track serves up a tasty lunch

We were grateful to FareShare and Back on Track for providing the catering for the launch.  Back on Track did a magnificent job providing a tasty meal and snacks for a wide variety of diets.  Thanks!

Food Power logo for GMFPA article for GM Poverty Action

 

 

Join the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance

You can still join GMPA’s Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance – just email Tom

If you are interested in one of the sub-groups, please also indicate that in the sign-up email so you can be added to the list for that group. There are nine groups – the Driver Group, the Reference Group and seven themed sub-groups:

GM Food Poverty Alliance diagram for GM Poverty Action

  1. Place-based access to food, looking at areas of Greater Manchester that do not have healthy and affordable food options
  2. Children experiencing food poverty
  3. Causes of food poverty, looking at underlying structural and economic issues such as universal credit and low-paid or
    precarious jobs
  4. Food banks and beyond, looking at how we can better coordinate, develop best practice models for, and explore different models of food aid and social food provision
  5. Measuring and monitoring food poverty
  6. Skills and training for people in poverty, looking at issues such as health, budgeting, and cooking
  7. Diversity Scrutiny Group, which will advise the other sub-groups to make sure the Action Plan addresses food poverty for everyone

 

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Real Food Wythenshawe

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Who are Real Food Wythenshawe?

Wythenshawe Community Housing Group’s Real Food project is a health and wellbeing programme whose goal is to change people’s behaviour around healthy more sustainable lifestyles. The programme launched in 2013 with an aim to make Wythenshawe an exemplar of how food projects should be run in the 21st century and has since gone from strength to strength helping contribute to WCHG’s vision “to  create communities where people choose to live and work, having pride in their homes and services.”

Some of the project highlights include:

•  Presenting to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland to help raise awareness about food poverty in the UK as part of the Universal Periodic Review.

Wythenshawe Real Food in Geneva for GM Poverty Action

Real Food in Geneva

•  Launching ‘the Unit E’ food storage warehouse in Wythenshawe Town Centre which helps to distribute to seven food banks across the area

•  Winning a Gold Award for the ‘50 shades of Green’ Garden as part of Manchester Dig The City in 2015

•  Winning Gold at RHS Tatton for their ‘Taste of Wythenshawe’ Garden in partnership with Reeseheath college and then relocating the garden in Wythenshawe Park for all to enjoy with the help of WCHG

In its first 5 years the project has been so successful it has reached across the whole Wythenshawe community and even further.  It’s done this through a whole host of different projects which all contribute to supporting people to lead healthier, lower carbon lifestyles through the food they grow, cook and eat, which is also the teams motto even featuring on the BBC National Lottery’s programme.

The project was initially built around 5 flagship projects

Wythenshawe Real Food Geodome for GM Poverty Action

The Geodome

The Geodome

Green Spaces to Growing Spaces

Mapping and Harvesting Abundance

Cooking and Eating Sustainably

Wythenshawe Park Walled Garden and Farm

The Geodome is located at the Manchester College on Brownley Road and aims to inspire and excite young people to understand where their food comes from.  This innovative indoor food growing system helps to stimulate discussion around sustainable urban food production and introduce students to the issues around environmental change and food security whilst promoting sustainability and encouraging students to become Real Food Ambassadors for the future.

The food grown in this indoor classroom is used by the café at the Manchester College and also the Real Food Demo Kitchen which is situated in the indoor market in Wythenshawe Town Centre.  Open every Tuesday and Thursday the demo kitchen, gives local people the opportunity to see how to cook different recipes, ask nutrition advice and taste the meals on offer.

Here are some stats:  since 2013

Wythenshawe Real Food Cooking for GM Poverty Action

Cooking up a feast!

15,268 Recipes given out

16,579 have attended cooking courses, events and workshops

100 sessions delivered at Real Food Kitchen & Wythenshawe indoor market footfall has increased 40%

72 Local Growing Groups supported by Real food

178 People have volunteered, totalling 11,020 hours donated

17 people have gone into full time employment

Distributed 22 tonnes of food through the Wythenshawe Food Bank

Plus local Food & Veg has risen through Real Food support at Wythenshawe Farm Shop

For more information please visit their Website or follow them on Twitter @realfoodteam or Facebook

 

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GM Food Poverty Alliance

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Join the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance

The proliferation of food banks and other social food providers has been one of the largest movements of this decade – now we must work together for a Greater Manchester in which no-one has to go hungry.

With lower incomes and higher costs, many people are struggling to put food on the table, and a healthy, balanced diet may be even further from their reach. Many are also limited by inadequate cooking facilities. The explosion in the number of social food providerswe have mapped 171 of them across the city region – shows that the people of Greater Manchester share our concern and are taking action.

Some of these efforts are coordinated on the ground, for example in Wythenshawe and Stockport, and there is some over-arching coordination by the likes of The Trussell Trust, Independent Food Aid Network and Greater Together Manchester. However many gaps remain, for example valuable data remains uncollected by many food banks, in some areas public sector and social sector responses are not joined up, and the role of much of the private sector is significantly underdeveloped.

We believe that this is the time for strategic action to bring out the best in Greater Manchester’s response. The first aim of the Alliance will therefore be to co-produce a Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester. The plan will set achievable actions, to:
•  Reduce and prevent food poverty
•  Build resilience and support communities to plan and adapt to the challenge of food poverty
•  Address structural and economic issues that underlie food poverty, such as the benefits system and precarious and low-paid employment

I also made a pledge at the Mayor’s Green Summit last week that the Alliance will consider the environmental impact of its recommendations, while also challenging those who lead on environmental issues to consider the impact of their work on people in poverty.

Participants can be in the public, private or social sectors, and they can be leaders in positions of power, on-the-ground practitioners or people with lived experience of food poverty. This alliance will have a place for people from all walks of life, all across Greater Manchester, as long as they want to work with others towards a more coordinated and strategic long-term approach to addressing food poverty in our city region.

We ask every organisation that works with people who have lived experience of food poverty, to encourage some of them to attend the meeting. The Alliance, and the Action Plan, will be stronger and have greater integrity if co-produced with people who are ‘experts by experience’.

You can join the alliance by attending our launch event:

Time: 1pm – 4pm    Date: Tuesday May 8th 2018

Venue: Main Hall, Methodist Central Hall, Oldham Street, Manchester, M1 1JQ.

Please book in advance, and share this invitation with others who might be interested

Tom Skinner, GMPA Director writes editorial for GM Poverty Action

Tom Skinner

If you cannot attend the event but would like to be included in future communications about the Alliance, please email Tom  with ‘FPA Sign-up’ in the subject line.

The Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, convened by Greater Manchester Poverty Action and the Food Poverty Special Interest Group, is part of the national Food Power program.

 

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The language of food

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Capitalism has coopted the language of food – costing the world millions of meals

Article by Megan Blake, Director of the MA Food Security and Food Justice, University of Sheffield

Hardly a day goes by when food is not in the news. We are at once encouraged to eat healthily, buy locally, and reduce food waste. Meanwhile, stories about the various groups of people going hungry are also on the rise – malnourished elderly people, children’s holiday hunger, and rising food insecurity. Increases in these rates have been linked to government policies such as welfare reform and commercial protections that give rise to zero-hours contracts. But in my view the problem is deeper than this – it is embedded in the way we talk about food. The language we use is confusing – it creates feelings of guilt and enhances social divisions.

Most people in economically developed countries purchase at least some of their food from a supermarket, where food is sold to make a profit, usually for a large corporation. We tend to think of this as ordinary food. Food acquired through other means – for example, from local allotments, supermarket surpluses, digital food sharing appscommunity refrigerators, community food programmes, or gleaning – is considered alternative food.

By thinking of food in this way we imply value judgements on the consumers. Finding a new language could enable a more healthy, pleasurable and sustainable relationship with the food that is available to all of us, whoever we are.

Surplus food is food intended for supermarkets, but for a variety of reasons is no longer able to be exchanged commercially.

One recent example is a chicken production plant closed for poor hygiene and mislabelling practices, not because the food, prior to reaching the plant, was inherently bad. Thousands of chickens were wasted but if the producer had been able to move quickly to a charity or discounter who could collect, package, and distribute the meat, it would not have been wasted. None could be found in time.

Other examples include packaging malfunctions, over-supply due to favourable growing conditions, unexpected changes in demand or when food is oddly shaped and therefore deemed unsaleable by supermarkets.  If such food is rescued it is sometimes sold to discount retailers who sell the surplus more cheaply and are one of the largest growing sectors in the UK. Food  may also become animal feed, be composted, or turned into biofuel.

Surplus food or social food article by Megan Blake for GM Poverty Action

A very sociable meal using surplus food

Increasingly, this surplus food is donated to organisations such as FareShareFood CycleReal Junk Food Projects, and others in the UK but also in other countries. Donated surplus is distributed to eaters through cafescommunity pantriessocial eatingcooking lessons and the like, or indirectly through charities and third sector organisations who then feed people in many ways – often not as emergency food providers (foodbanks).

We don’t really know how much surplus food is rescued and donated. But in 2017 FareShare helped distribute the equivalent of 28.6m meals to nearly 7,000 organisations. Food from the Community Shop network provided almost 4m meals, and City Harvest delivered just shy of 1m meals to organisations in London. Despite this, figures suggest that considerably more could be rescued. Wrap (Waste and Resources Action Programme ), estimates that nearly 2m tons of food is wasted annually from the UK commercial sector (one ton is approximately 2,380 meals), much of which could have been eaten.

Megan Blake Food article for GM Poverty Action

Megan Blake

Shared, social, sustainable food

The links that surplus food has with waste and commercial loss cause us to see surplus food as inferior food, despite its edibility. While I agree that austerity and welfare policies are causing great harm to families and communities, I also know that donated surplus food is a resource that supports the resilience of organisations aiming to help struggling communities and households.

The effect of framing surplus food as second class dismisses the positive social, cultural, environmental and economic values of this food, complicates how organisations aiming to help communities can do so while still preserving dignity, and for eaters, comes to signify a failure to engage with the commercial supply chain. All while giving the commercial sector a pass.

Access to free or low cost surplus food is a means for expanding tight budgets, enabling community interactions, and enhancing personal and household well-being through social cooking and eating activities. It also brings people together.

So, what if we referred to surplus food as shared or social food? This language would reflect the social role this food plays and we would associate it more closely with the care of self, family, community and planet that this food enables.

 

adminThe language of food
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