The Latest at LAB: Food Poverty Round-table

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Last month, LAB welcomed a small team from five different National Housing Federations across the country who have come together for 16 weeks to work on how they can reduce poverty and the poverty premium – the idea that in the UK, those who are poor pay more for essential goods and services.  

The purpose of the round-table meeting was to bring together leaders from across all sectors in Liverpool to understand the challenge of food poverty and ensuring food security for everyone. It explored what is being done already and how the team could help to turn the dial on the poverty premium by learning from Liverpool’s example. 

At the event was the NHF team, Jacqui, Will, Helen, Alan and Katie talking to Council members Annette James, Public Health Strategic Lead at Liverpool City Council and Cllr Jane Corbett, Liverpool City Council Lead on Poverty. In addition, we had representatives from local food banks such as Paul O’Brien, Director of Micah, a social justice charity based at Liverpool Cathedral and Ian Byrne, Director of Fans Supporting Foodbanks, an initiative between Liverpool’s major football clubs to tackle food poverty. 

Food poverty in the UK

Given that poverty is increasingly viewed as a ‘compound’ problem, it is essential that experts from a variety of backgrounds come together to work on this social issue.

Food banks are designed to be a crisis response, but it is no secret that food bank usage is on the rise in the UK, with one report published by the Independent in June this year suggesting that one in fourteen Britons have been forced to use a food bank, a figure that has risen by 13% between April 2017 and April 2018.

Katie from NHF told us about the need for a sustainable alternative to food banks, so that they are not used long-term; affordable fresh produce need to be accessible in all areas of the city, particularly in the face of Brexit, since such a large proportion of Britain’s fresh food comes from the EU.

NHF’s camp at LAB – the post-it note wall includes quotes from tenants and attendees of the roundtable event.

How can we move away from food banks?

Capacity’s Community Engagement Officer, Jen Ratcliffe, who attended the roundtable, believes this is where initiatives like Micah’s food market and community café can really make a difference. Although Micah are still running their food bank, the idea behind their food market is to sell out-of-date but edible goods from supermarkets that would otherwise go to landfill at super-discount prices to those who want access to fresh goods but cannot afford supermarket prices.

Everything at the food market costs either 20p, 50p or £1. For example, canned food which has passed its expiry date but is formally verified by the provider as edible might be sold at 20p. This way, service users can get nutritional food without having to rely on the food bank all the time.

The hope is that this scheme could be rolled out to various areas with high deprivation around the city, to ensure it is accessible to as many people as possible.

Final thoughts

We caught up with Katie again after the event: ‘The round-table would not have been possible without LAB’s support. The contacts provided by Chris Witterick and the team at Capacity were invaluable, as well as the space itself.’

 

If food banks or the community food market mentioned here are something you would benefit from, then you’ll be very welcome on Mondays (except Bank Holidays) between 11am-2pm at St Michael in the City Church, Upper Pitt Street for their community market. Micah’s food bank is open on Tuesdays 12.30pm-2.30pm at St Vicent’s Church, St James Street and on Thursdays 12.30pm-2.30pm at St Bride’s Church, Percy Street.  

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