Food Banks and Beyond - Notes from Food Poverty Alliance sub-group

Here are the notes from the sub-group that looked at the food support system - all actions were included in the Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester. What do you think? Have we missed anything? How might these actions be taken forward, and can you play a part in this?

Food Banks and Beyond – Lily Axworthy

According to the Trussell Trust, Food Bank usage in the UK rose by 13% in 2017/18 compared to the previous year, with more people accessing emergency food provision in the North West than anywhere else in the UK. Much of the response to the increasing problem of Food Poverty has been driven by small community and faith groups, and much of the current provision across Greater Manchester (GM) is being delivered in an ad-hoc way – more so than the national average, as around 40% of food banks in GM are linked to the Trussell Trust or other networks, compared with more than 60% nationally.

As such, there is a recognised need for better coordination across the Food Support sector. Establishing a network of Food Support providers would benefit service users, food support organisations, and other frontline services that may be signposting or referring individuals towards food support projects. It would also allow for more accurate mapping and more strategic development of food support provision.

Until quite recently, a major focus of the Food Support sector has been providing emergency food parcels for households experiencing temporary food crisis, to tide people over until their next payday. However in 2017/18, the top reason given for accessing a Food Bank was ‘low income’ and “a growing proportion of food bank referrals are due to benefit levels not covering the costs of essentials” – these are not emergencies but long-term issues. Whilst it is vital to acknowledge the hard work of all those involved in running traditional, no cost food banks, as well as acknowledging that emergency, no-cost, food provision is still very much required within the sector (particularly in relation to those with no recourse to public funds e.g. asylum seekers), recently it has become apparent that there is a real need for longer-term low cost food provision for households who are facing long-term food insecurity. This need is increasingly being met by Food Pantries, Food Clubs and Community Shops – Food Power’s Community Food Retail briefing explains more about these initiatives.

There are many benefits of encouraging the development of these projects. From the point of view of the service user, they can benefit from an increased level of choice in the food they can access – including fresh food (which is not provided by most Food Banks), they may feel a greater sense of dignity in accessing this sort of project as they are not receiving “donated food” as “charity” but are instead able to pay an affordable amount to access food in a choice based, supermarket-style set up. Furthermore, membership of these projects does not have to be restricted only to those experiencing acute food insecurity, which also helps to remove the stigma associated with accessing food support.

Aim 1: Creation of GM wide network of Food Support Providers for People in need

Building on the success of the GM Food Providers Map and the groundwork laid by the Food Banks and Beyond group, the creation of a GM-wide network of Food Support projects, services and organisations. A well-established partnership will make the Food support sector more effective by creating a network of mutual support for frontline staff and volunteers and, most importantly, will help be a driver for quality and ensure the provision of high quality services across Greater Manchester. This will also help to facilitate conversations about reducing reliance on food support in the long-term.

Action: creation of a full-time staffing post to provide coordination for this network.

Funding will be applications submitted – including to local bodies such as CCGs, Public Health, Local Authorities and Local Housing Providers as well as funders such as Big Lottery and Esmée Fairbain.

Action: creation of a set of key principles for organisations to sign up to, to help drive up standards and ensure we are placing the needs of people experiencing food poverty and food insecurity at the heart of all services.

Membership of the GMFPA Food Banks and Beyond Group, and Network Coordinator to draft principles.

Action: creation of partnerships at a GM level between the Food Support network and other services such as Debt Advice, Benefit Support, Housing Support, Language & Literacy Support, Cooking Classes etc. to ensure that people accessing the Food Support sector have easy access to other support, including Fuel Support vouchers, the Warm Homes Discount, and access to funds that can help reduce debt

GMCA

Department for Work and Pensions

Citizen’s Advice Bureau

JobCentre Plus

Adult Education Providers

Encourage independent food support providers to collect and submit data on use of food support projects, and using that data to influence decision-making

Food Support Providers

Action: Provide training and networking opportunities for food support projects.

Network Coordinator

Training Providers

Action: support the roll out of the provision of fuel vouchers to complement the provision of Food Parcels and low cost food, to ensure that people experiencing both food crisis and food insecurity have the fuel needed to cook meals.

Electricity North West

nPower

National Energy Action

Aim 2: Development of a free online platform for the Food Support Sector

We need a free online platform (akin to the streetsupport.net site created for the homelessness sector), which would allow organisations to create a profile and update their information, as well as allowing for front line staff and service users to access correct information about services (particularly outlining how and when service users can access a service). The platforms could also be utilised to promote seasonal responses to food insecurity by including projects that aim to tackle “holiday hunger” by providing no-cost/low-cost meals and activities for children and their families during the school holidays. This site may also offer a more strategic way for general public to engage with the Food Support Sector by offering a place for frontline services to outline their specific needs (both in terms of donations of items and financial resources, as well as volunteers).

Action: Secure funding or in-kind support for the creation of this platform

Action: commitment from existing Food Support services/projects to using the platform and to keeping their own information accurate and up to date.

Existing Food Support providers

Action: expectation that all new Food Support projects will commit to using the platform.

New Food Support providers

Action: requirement for other frontline services to be made aware of the platform to allow for accurate signposting and referrals, including the promotion of social prescribing for households living in food poverty.

Local Authorities

Public Health

GPs and Health Visitors

Job Centres

Community Centres

Schools, nurseries, children’s centres

Faith centres

• Action: creation of marketing campaign promoting the platform

PR company – donate time/resources

• Action: use of data and information collected via the online platform as evidence for systemic changes needed to address the underlying causes of food poverty

Aim 3: Provision of both no-cost and low-cost food in every local authority

As outlined in the introduction to this section, there is an increasing need for longer-term support for people experiencing food insecurity, in addition to a robust response for those experiencing food crisis. This aim is focused on ensuring that there is provision of both no-cost and low-cost food in all localities and that these projects are adequately resourced.

Action: Promotion of longer-term, low-cost, fresh food provision as an additional resource for people who are not in food crisis. The provision of low-cost food on a more long-term basis not only provides households relying on Food Banks with a “move-on” provision that is more sustainable, but with the correct marketing, should help prevent households falling into food crisis by reducing their overall expenditure on food.

Church Action on Poverty have committed to supporting the promotion of the Stockport Homes ‘Your Local Pantry’ franchise.

Identification of empty retail/community spaces that could be utilities as new Food Pantries/Community Shops/Food Cooperatives.

Creation of a free toolkit outlining the set-up of a Food Pantry/Community Shop/Food Cooperative.

Action: exploration of the Community Fridge model, allowing for local residents access to a surplus food shared by other local households and local businesses. There are currently two Community Fridges in Oldham, learning should be taken for these two projects.

Hubbub have a ‘How to’ guide and resource pack to help groups set up their own Community Fridge.

Action: encourage provision of low-costs meals via projects such as Community Kitchens

Existing projects in the UK.

Aim 4: integration of growing (both local grassroots projects and commercial farming) into the Food Support network

Action: Development of a system by which local growing produce can be distributed appropriately to frontline food support projects

GM FareShare

Local growing projects & allotments

Action: Promotion of, and support for, gleaning (channelling crops leftover by mechanical harvesting into local projects

GM FareShare

Commercial Farms

Gleaning Network UK

Promotion of green spaces for community growing, starting with a pilot project using land belonging to the Diocese of Salford.

Diocese of Salford

Other organisations with land that could be used for this purpose, e.g. colleges, housing associations

Other Actions:

Need to support projects in diverse areas to respond to the culinary/dietary/cultural needs of their community.

More capacity and support for food sorting and redistribution, to avoid waste and ensure that as much good food as possible is available for people in need

Trussell Trust, ‘End of Year Stats’, https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/

http://www.foodaidnetwork.org.uk/mapping

Trussell Trust, ‘End of Year Stats’, https://www.trusselltrust.org/news-and-blog/latest-stats/end-year-stats/

Researched and created by Greater Together Manchester and Greater Manchester Poverty Action, [web address]

https://www.npower.com/about-npower/in-the-community/fuel-bank/