North West Hardship Hub

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New service puts debt support at your fingertips
introducing the North West Hardship Hub

Debt advisors across the North West are being encouraged to register for a new online resource putting hundreds of support schemes at their fingertips.

‘The North West Hardship Hub’ brings together financial assistance schemes from across the public and private sector to help the money advice community quickly and easily pinpoint the right support for people who are struggling with their household bills.

Supported by regional water company United Utilities and developed in conjunction with the money advice community, the Hub now contains information on more than 500 schemes from 300 organisations covering sectors such as electricity, gas, telecoms, water, local authorities and housing associations.

Jane Haymes, affordability manager at United Utilities said:  “The idea behind the Hardship Hub came about after we organised an affordability conference in Liverpool back in 2018. Debt advisors who attended the conference said what they really needed was a facility to help them quickly find debt support schemes from all the different providers across the North West without having to trawl all the different companies’ websites.

“A year later, with the support of the debt advisor community, the Hardship Hub was launched and it’s been a great success. The site now contains information on hundreds of schemes and is continuing to grow.”

Once registered, debt advisors can easily search to find what schemes are available in postcode areas so their clients get the support they need.

Said Jane: “The Hub has made it incredibly easy for debt advisors to find the right schemes for their clients. What’s really useful about the site is that the advisors can rate each scheme so that the providers can see whether their scheme is delivering the support it should be. I’d encourage all debt advisors from the North West to give it a go.”

Registration for the Hardship Hub is free, visit the website.


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Councils must tackle in-work poverty

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By Marcus Johns, IPPR

One in every three children in Greater Manchester lives below the poverty line, after housing costs, and this continues to rise. These new figures from End Child Poverty are shocking.

While cuts and reforms to benefits are largely to blame, low wages, insecure work, and poor-quality jobs have also had a significant impact. In 2018, the TUC found the number of children nationally growing up in poverty who live in working households is growing – it’s currently around 3.1 million.

The relationship between high levels of employment and lower poverty has been widely assumed. But, in the era of record high employment rates – currently 74% in Greater Manchester – alongside increasing levels of poverty, this view appears defunct.

At IPPR North, we recently published ‘Decent Work: Harnessing the power of local government’, a report highlighting the North’s job quality crisis and some of the things northern local authorities are doing to mitigate it.

This crisis sees 1 in 4 northern workers paid less than the Real Living Wage of £9 per hour, the amount needed to just get by. In Greater Manchester, that equates to 270,000 people. The picture is even worse for women: 1 in 3 are paid below the living wage in the North. This crisis is heightening: average weekly pay has fallen £21 per week in real terms since the financial crisis. This puts pressure on household budgets, leading to parents skipping meals to provide food for their children and harming wellbeing with the constant threat of slipping into uncontrollable debt or being unable to pay rent.

To tackle this crisis, we need to focus on decent work. Decent work means secure and reliable hours, training and progression opportunities, a voice at work and fair and decent pay. So, we are calling for the North to become a ‘Living Wage Region’ by 2025 – where everyone is paid at least the living wage – and for the creation of a Northern Employment Charter, that brings together the region’s local employment charters to a shared minimum standard of work. Our report outlines a roadmap to get there, calling on local government to use all levers at their disposal.

Many authorities are already combating low pay and poor-quality work. Despite the headwinds of a decade of austerity, councils are overcoming financial and legal barriers—both real and perceived—to improve pay and conditions for staff, workers in their supply chain, and in their local economies. Councils like Manchester and Salford are leading the way in these efforts.

But what more can be done in Greater Manchester?

All boroughs in Greater Manchester need to work together to embed decent work – our report outlines 27 practical recommendations for councils to start implementing both internally and in their suppliers’ workforces. This is accompanied by our 10-point guide for Councillors on decent work in commissioning and procurement.

We know Greater Manchester’s employment charter has excellent potential – it needs to be implemented at pace and used by employers across the city region. It can send a clear message: Greater Manchester won’t accept less than decent work for all citizens.

We also know Greater Manchester has many anchor institutions, universities, colleges, hospitals whose geography is “sticky”: they can’t or are very unlikely to ever leave Greater Manchester. They can be supported to adopt decent work and pay living wages. They are also big customers, who can throw their institutional weight behind decent work by demanding it of their suppliers.

Marcus Johns article for GM Poverty Action

Marcus Johns, IPPR North

But crucially, central government must step up. The minimum wage should be raised to at least the real living wage, employment rights should be strengthened and enforcement improved. Local government needs fair and proper funding to deliver decent work indefinitely.

We have a job quality crisis largely because of political choices central government has made: the choice to allow the number on zero hours contracts to rise and real pay to fall. But local government has a choice to do what it can do locally, right now.

Without decent work, working people – and their children – across Greater Manchester, and across the North, will continue to be affected. Local government here in Greater Manchester and across the North must act now.

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Cracking Good Food collection

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Any spare mugs, saucepans, trowels, watering cans?

As part of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Action Plan launched in March 2019, Cracking Good Food have set up a sponsorship package to facilitate some offers of support through their organisation.  Find out more here

They have also put out a call for all unwanted cooking and growing equipment in order to furnish the community groups and hostels that they are working in with the tools that are needed.  Collected items can also be shared out among families and individuals moving on from temporary accommodation.

Through the sponsorship opportunities, Apex Storage have donated 4 secure storage units where kitchen and garden items donated by everyone can be collected before being redistributed across the city region.   The units are in Cheadle, Ardwick, Radcliffe and near Sport City. Full addresses and drop off instructions here. Please contact Tracey at Cracking Good Food to arrange delivery.

They are looking for: mugs, plates in all sizes, cutlery, soup and cereal bowls, aprons, baking trays, chopping boards, saucepans, utensils, sieves, graters, colanders and storage including airtight food containers.  Also most welcome would be small electrical appliances such as blenders, kettles, toasters, microwaves and slow cookers. Larger white goods, such as fridges, freezers, dishwashers and cookers can also be redistributed.

For the ‘grow your own’ projects they need: growing containers, trowels, forks, spades, gardening gloves, composting soil, rakes, wheelbarrows, canes, garden twine and string, watering cans and hoses and especially seeds, small fruit bushes and salad plants.

So do pass on that collection of odd dinner plates, or those extra mugs you don’t need, the stack of garden tubs that you no longer want to pot up and those lettuce seeds someone gave you that you just know you’ll never sow!

If you would like to get more involved please check out the Action Plan to see how you could contribute.

Cracking Good Food Collection for GM Poverty Action

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Inspiring Communities Together

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Food Matters

Over the past year Inspiring Communities Together in partnership with Age UK Salford, Salford Royal and Salford City Council Public Health Team and other community venues have tested a variety of approaches to try and address community food-related issues.

The approach developed delivered a programme of activities across the life course of start well, live well and age well.

Whilst the test model developed by this partnership came before the launch the GM Food Poverty Action Plan they have been able to demonstrate that their approach has:

  • provided more people with knowledge and skills to make healthy food choices through a variety of tools;
  • the joined-up approach has brought together a variety of partners and funding to test a different approach to
    addressing food poverty;
  • more people are now making healthy food choices from across the life course;
  • the programme of activity has supported friendships to grow within neighbourhoods.

To develop and deliver this approach has required not only the commitment of the partnership but also access to funding to support management and co-ordination of the model.

For 2019-20 Inspiring Communities Together have made a commitment to:

  • carry on the work testing a place-based approach to addressing food poverty using the GM Food Poverty Action Plan;
  • build on the learning developed during this period of work to develop a neighbourhood model which can be
    replicated in other neighbourhoods;
  • use the learning that has already taken place to identify funding sources which can provide the resources needed.

Their full report Food Matters: A Neighbourhood Approach, Lessons Learnt April 2018 – March 2019 is available here


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Prosperity for all?

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Prosperity for all? Getting poverty onto the agenda in discussions of city-region policy
By Ceri Hughes, IGAU, University of Manchester

Discussion of what we can do to tackle poverty has largely disappeared from the national policy agenda but it continues to affect people across Greater Manchester. How can the city-region respond to the challenge?

At last month’s conference – From Poverty to Prosperity for All (organised jointly by GMPA, IGAU and JRF) – we brought together over 90 people from Greater Manchester and beyond to explore what could be done to improve the lives of the estimated 620,000 people in poverty across the city-region. Could we make reducing poverty central to discussions about both economic and social policies? What could this achieve? And what would have to change to achieve this?

A broader “anti-poverty” strategy

Moving from ‘grow now, redistribute later’ to a more ‘inclusive economy’ approach could help to address poverty, as we explore in the Inclusive Growth Analysis Unit’s new paper. Inclusive growth policies have the potential to reduce or prevent poverty by targeting some of the poverty risk factors – including by improving job security, tackling low pay, or prioritising investment in quality foundational services. This is significant given that the majority of people in poverty are of working-age: for many in this group, jobs – getting and keeping one, getting a better one, balancing work with other commitments and good health – are likely to be a concern.

But we cannot assume that these kinds of policies will have an impact on people in poverty. Re-designing jobs in the social care and retail sectors, or introducing a good employment charter for businesses across Greater Manchester could benefit people in poverty, but those links are not straightforward and need to be forged from the outset. This partly comes down to a question of policy design: are initiatives explicitly aiming to engage and benefit people from a range of backgrounds, including those on lower incomes? Have policymakers (and employers, voluntary sector organisations etc) thought about the barriers that people might face? These aren’t new questions, but they remain a weak spot in design. Tackling poverty may not always be a priority but we need to know when it is, and why other things might take precedence for a while.

Bringing poverty into view at city-region level

How could we raise the profile of poverty at city-region level and build stronger links between areas? There is already a lot going on in local communities across the region. Several local authorities still conduct analysis of the causes and nature of poverty, and have maintained and updated child and family poverty strategies. But poverty also needs to be considered at city-region level, where key policies are increasingly being discussed.

Prosperity for all Ceri Hughes for GM Poverty Action

Ceri Hughes

Currently, none of the Greater Manchester Combined Authority’s leaders are responsible for tackling poverty, and there are no explicit targets to reduce poverty. GMPA’s Food Poverty Alliance recently called for a poverty lead to be appointed to the Combined Authority, as well as in each of the ten councils. Assessing the impact that policies could have on low income residents could also be made a routine part of the policy development and scrutiny process at local and city-region level. These are just a few of the ideas discussed at the conference and shared again here in the hope that they will lead to further conversations and action in coming months.

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Great British Debt Trap

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We were recently contacted by Stephen Pennells from the Jubilee Debt Campaign and we invited him to write for the newsletter to tell us more.

Ending the Great British Debt Trap
By Stephen Pennells, Jubilee Debt Campaign, Manchester

There are many causes of household poverty but one of them is the debt trap that faces people who don’t have the ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ or savings to fall back on and find themselves forced to borrow at the most expensive rates when a crisis occurs.   This leads to another crisis.    Decent and dependable work, credit unions, and responsible debt counselling are needed, but so also are structural changes.

Although Wonga is in administration, they still take payments, while others eagerly pick up their business. Moreover, regulation of credit cards, overdrafts, doorstep lending, rent-to-own and other businesses remains light, both in terms of interest rates and conditions.

People who can’t shop around may pay considerably more for goods when they buy from BrightHouse or are lured by the perceived prospect of savings, into opening interest-charging accounts with high street stores.

Jubilee Debt Campaign, campaigning with others in the ‘End the Debt Trap Campaign’, demands an end to predatory and exploitative lending, a write-off of personal debt due to irresponsible lending and deep structural economic injustice, and changes in economic policy so that people don’t need to rely on borrowing to make ends meet.

Several Manchester councillors and local MPs (Andrew Gwynne, Mike Kane, Afzal Khan and Jeff Smith) have supported the campaign, as has the Dean of Manchester.

We’re calling on the Chancellor to end rip-off lending by capping interest rates and charges for loans, credit cards, overdrafts, rent-to-own and doorstep lending; and set out how the goverment plans to help families who are stuck in the debt trap.

JDC is a small NGO with a dedicated but overworked staff in London.  To change mindsets and break the chains of domestic debt snaring over 18% of Greater Mancunians, the campaign needs you not only to sign, but also to take it to family and friends, workmates, union and party meetings, religious congregations and community centers.  You can join on our website

Politicians and leaders need to be encouraged to raise their voices and reminded to keep on doing so.   JDC will gladly provide materials such as cards and petition forms or help with this and can be contacted by email or on 0207 324 4722.


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Salford Building in Warmth

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by Aneaka Kellay, Carbon Co-op

Carbon Co-op launched a video to coincide with Fuel Poverty Awareness Day 2019, showcasing Salford Building In Warmth, a partnership project with charity National Energy Action (NEA), Helping Hands and Salford Council that brings together energy experts, local handy people and neighbours to tackle fuel poverty.

With effects on health, education and employability, fuel poverty affects a growing number of people, with a staggering 15% of households in the Broughton area of Salford classified as fuel poor (figures taken from the Salford City Council – Affordable Warmth, Strategic Action Plan – 2018/2021).

As part of Salford Building In Warmth, Carbon Co-op bought in Energy Consultant Diane Hubbard to conduct airtightness testing on four energy champions’ homes, highlighting the coldest, most draughty areas. The tests enabled local property maintenance and repairs service Helping Hands to make targeted and affordable improvements to homes with follow up airtightness tests used to investigate quality and impact.

Megan, one of the Energy Champions said “Having those problems resolved, it’s a lot cosier. I’ve told almost everyone I’ve met because it’s been so exciting, I feel quite evangelical about the benefits, just getting small things done makes a difference

Diane Hubbard, Energy Consultant, Green Footsteps said “It is vital that those undertaking energy efficiency home improvements for vulnerable householders are trained to undertake work to the highest standard. Without this training they not only risk their work not achieving the results they want, but more importantly they can put those living in homes at risk. It’s great to see community initiatives in Salford doing things differently.”

As Aneaka Kellay, Carbon Co-op said “It’s been great to work with Helping Hands, Diane Hubbard and the Community Champions in Salford. We’ve shown that by bringing communities and expertise together, we can make a difference.”

Rebecca Long Bailey MP said “I’m very pleased to see the initiatives Carbon Co-op, other Salford social enterprises and community energy groups are taking to find ways to tackle this real issue, and give people safer and warmer homes .”

Read more about Salford Building In Warmth  here


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Making employment work for everyone

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By Andy Burnham , Mayor of Greater Manchester

For many people, modern work isn’t working.

In an increasingly insecure UK labour market, poverty rates have risen for every type of working family and one in eight workers nationally is now in poverty.

Our Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review, launched earlier this year, found that wages have fallen by 6.6% in real terms between 2006 and 2016 for the average worker in the city-region, in a labour market which has seen a rise in unstable and low paid work.

This can’t be right. We need to be offering employees secure, fulfilling and well-paid work that prevents them from falling into poverty in the first place, and that means that our businesses can grow and succeed based on the skills and engagement of their staff.

That’s why in Greater Manchester we’re doing things differently, working with employers and employees in all sectors, trade unions, business representative organisations and other key stakeholders to develop a Good Employment Charter.

Through two consultations and a broader co-design process involving GM Poverty Action and others we’ve developed a list of seven employment characteristics which define good employment:

  • Security of work
  • Flexible work
  • Payment of a real living wage
  • Excellent people management
  • A productive & healthy workplace
  • Excellent recruitment practices and progression
  • Workplace engagement and voice

We want to bring employers with us on a journey towards best practice in each of these fields, demonstrating the positive impact that better employment standards can have on employee welfare and business performance alike. The Charter will therefore have a tiered approach to help support and encourage employers to share excellent practice, access support to progress to higher standards, and help them become more successful as a result.

Through our co-design process and as we move into the implementation of the Charter, we’re building a coalition of organisations committed to improving employment practice and offering fair conditions for their workers.

In this way, Charter members will be at the heart of the movement, demonstrating its values and spreading its influence and positive impacts to other employers in Greater Manchester – advocating membership amongst their networks and supply chains.

Our Charter model has now been agreed by the Combined Authority and, working with partners, we are beginning the process of putting the Charter into action. Already, it has been highlighted by the recent Greater Manchester Independent Prosperity Review as an important element in increasing economic growth and pay in the city-region.

I’d like to thank GM Poverty Action for the help and advice they have provided throughout the Charter’s design. I believe the model we have created together can and will make a real difference for people in Greater Manchester.

More information is available on the GMCA website

You can read GMPA’s responses to the Good Employment Carter consultation here

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Salford: No-one left behind

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by Jonathan Stancombe

From council tax to cutting the cost of funerals, from boosting benefits to decent pay, Salford City Council is fighting poverty on many fronts.

In 2017, using local people’s first-hand experience and knowledge of areas to address, the council launched No-one Left Behind to tackle poverty in the city.

The campaign won national recognition in the Municipal Journal Awards last June and praise from the Money Advice Service but City Mayor Paul Dennett says there’s no room for complacency.

“I’m delighted at what we have achieved and the number of people we have helped, especially in the face of savage government funding cuts which has taken 53% of central government funding from our budget to date with austerity having no end in sight” he said.

“The challenges just keep on coming – particularly with the rollout of Universal Credit. Salford Citizen’s Advice has seen a 114% increase in the number of people coming forward for help and expect that to continue. When you think that last year they helped nearly 21,000 people you begin to appreciate the sheer scale of the problem.

“The council’s welfare rights and debt advice service helped more than 3,200 people this year to claim an extra £4.8 million in benefits they are entitled to and nearly 4,000 people have used our new BetterOff service which checks benefits and signposts them to job opportunities and childcare provision in the city. We only launched the website and face to face sessions last summer.

“We’ve helped over 25,000 people on low incomes by keeping the council tax reduction scheme at its current level for four years and helped more than 600 householders to reduce their energy costs.

“It’s no wonder that the United Nations, the Joseph Rowntree Foundation and the End Child Poverty campaign say that poverty is getting worse in the UK – the world’s fifth largest economy. It really is a disgrace.”

Last year new initiatives included tackling school summer holiday hunger, helping  more than 500 children and a new low-cost funeral service which cuts the average cost of a burial or cremation by 39%.

Even the city’s refuse collectors chipped in and made Christmas much more enjoyable for hundreds of local families than they might have expected. “They asked residents to put out a gift with their bins in December so we could pass it on to local charities and families. Salford people responded magnificently and donated more than 5,000 gifts worth an estimated £25,000 which went to local charities and families,” said Mayor Dennett.

While tackling poverty is a key priority preventing people from falling into difficulties in the first place is vital and City Mayor Paul Dennett is clear how that can be done. “Decent jobs with decent pay and terms and conditions of employment are crucial,” he said.

Panel Dennett Salford City Mayor for GM Poverty Action

Paul Dennett

“Salford is the fastest growing economy in Greater Manchester with unprecedented levels of investment and opportunities for local people. TalkTalk recently announced plans to move its headquarters from London to Salford. MediaCityUK is now the biggest digital hub outside London with education facilities on site to train the next generation. These are just some of our many success stories.

“All this, plus more and more businesses and organisations committed to following the council’s lead in paying the ‘real’ Living Wage (as set by the Living Wage Foundation) and improving working conditions creates real opportunities for local people. Salford City council is doing all it can to ensure as many people as possible benefit from what’s happening in our city.

“There’s no quick fix, no magic bullet but Salford’s spirit, strong partnerships, and sheer determination means we can and will do all we can to create a better and fairer Salford for all.”

See the full report here


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Underlying Causes of Food Poverty

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Addressing the underlying causes of food poverty
By Dr Mags Adams

Dr Mags Adams is Senior Research Co-ordinator at UCLAN’s Institute of Citizenship, Society and Change. She chaired one of the sub-groups of the Greater Manchester Food Poverty Alliance, which recommended actions for the Food Poverty Action Plan to address the underlying causes of food poverty. You can read the recommended actions, all of which were included in the Action Plan, and discuss them, here.

Food insecurity in the UK is on the rise as evidenced by the increased use of food banks across the country1 and the increasing number of deaths from malnutrition  (up by more than 30% between 2007 and 20162). At a time when Greater Manchester is performing well economically in terms of job creation and private sector business growth, low pay and low skills mean many people are not benefiting from the region’s success ; median full-time wages are £50 per week lower in Greater Manchester (£494) than they are nationally (£545), and 23% of workers are paid below the voluntary Living Wage3. Universal credit was piloted in Tameside in Greater Manchester before being rolled out to Oldham and further afield. It replaced six means tested benefits with one single payment. It has been highly criticised due to effects on housing rights, evictions and homelessness4. In October 2017 it was reported that 80% of claimants in some housing associations had fallen behind with rent because of delays in receiving their payments5. This new benefit has an inbuilt six-week delay in receiving payments, allegedly to mirror being paid monthly in the workplace (However, it should be noted than many of those earning under £10,000 per annum are actually paid weekly6). In reality delays of ten and twelve weeks are not uncommon before payments are received7.

Many additional factors are also at play in determining why people experience food poverty. For example, food prices fluctuate, the UK is a net importer of food8 and the fall in the pound since the EU referendum has pushed the cost of living upwards9. Furthermore, housing prices are disproportionately higher than in other European countries.

Child poverty in Manchester is one of the highest rates by local authority area; 35.5% of children under 16 live in poverty with 69.4% of them living in workless households10. Many people living in poverty are in part-time and low paid work.

Dr Mags Adams article for GM Poverty Action

Dr Mags Adams

By addressing the underlying causes of food poverty, we can ensure that everyone in Greater Manchester is food secure and has ‘adequate access at all times to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life’11. Many of the problems associated with food poverty, including hunger and malnutrition, are problems caused by poverty. Addressing this will mean that households have a real living wage for a decent quality of life, that homelessness becomes a thing of the past, that children can focus on their education rather than their hunger, and that everyone has an affordable place to live.

Mags is seeking people to apply for a fully-funded PhD on the topic of “Local food systems and local economic democracy: a framework for delivering food security?” Full details here

1 Bulman, M. (2018, 24 April). Food bank use in UK reaches highest rate on record as benefits fail to cover basic costs. Independent. Available here

2 British Specialist Nutrition Association (2018). Forgotten not Fixed: A Blueprint to Tackle  the Increasing Burden of Malnutrition in England. Available here

3 Joseph Rowntree Foundation (2017). 100-day countdown: Greater Manchester mayor must get to grips with region’s in-work poverty problem.  Available here

4 Greater Manchester Law Centre (2017). “We demand: no evictions as a result of Universal Credit delays” says GMLC, Disabled People Against the Cuts, Acorn tenants’ union and others. Available here

5 Williams, J. (2017, 19 Oct). Families are ‘being made homeless’ by Universal Credit – but its rollout will continue. Available here

6 Institute for Government (2017). The problems with Universal Credit. Available here

7 See Institute for Government (2017) above.

8 Gov.UK (2017). Food Statistics in your pocket 2017 – Global and UK supply. Available here

9 Jackson, G. (2017, 14 Nov). UK food prices rise at fastest rate in four years. Financial Times. Available here

10 Manchester City Council (2017). Manchester City Council Report for Resolution Manchester Family Poverty Strategy 2017-2022. Available here

11 World Food Programme (2018). What is food security? Available here


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