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:
- Assuring a robust supply of food;
- Helping to provide access to facilities for storing and distributing chilled and frozen food;
- Funding and in-kind resource to maintain and expand activities;
- Additional volunteer capacity;
- Reliable health and safety guidelines and measures;
- 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.
Director, Greater Manchester Poverty Action