Sept 2-16: House of Lords select committee evidence-gathering on food & poverty

This is the first fortnightly action-focussed chat: facilitator= Charlie Spring

Key questions:
-What evidence have we, as a city-region, gathered about links between poverty, food and health?
-What best practice can we identify and submit?
-What should the role of national government be in addressing food poverty?

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I’m working on a response from GM Poverty Action, will share when ready, hopefully in time for feedback but it might be a bit close to the deadline the way things are going!

Great- am working on a response along with some colleagues from our nascent cross-Atlantic alliance re insights from US/Canada (most of them are actually at the Closing the Hunger Gap conference in Raleigh right now!)

Here’s our draft, if you have any comments on this please feel free to send them on to me and I’ll consider them when I make the final edits and send this off on Thursday (but no promises as we’re a bit close to the deadline, sorry!)

House of Lords Select Committee on Food Poverty, Health and the Environment - Greater Manchester Poverty Action Draft response.pdf (643.5 KB)

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Hi Tom, thanks for this. I’ve been putting together a submission based on learning from US/Canada with Kayleigh Garthwaite and others, which has covered other themes (e.g. learning from other places/case studies). A few comments on current draft (if you want me to follow any up, let me know).

Q1- I could add other evidence of FI trends (in addition to food bank numbers/malnutrition figures)- Food and You survey, Survey of Londoners, Food Foundation etc- happy to provide a summary, though this will presumably be included in others’ submissions. Great that link to housing included. My research in Tameside also highlighted that benefit changes, whether to disability or UC switch, were resulting in lower incomes overall (not just payment delays). Poor mental/physical health, challenges with immigration status, physical access to shops and looking after kids/grandkids also came up in peoples descriptions of food insecurity.

Q2) More research in US but links between food insecurity and school attainment/productivity e.g Mariana Chilton. I think Fuel for School did some research on school-day hunger. Again in Tameside one mum described how her drop in income following disability meant switching from fresh produce to relying on end-of-day discounts and a weekly pantry shop, resulting in flare-up of skin problems and need for antibiotics- so there’s the longer-term health costs (as you mention). Links between inadequate/unchosen diet and poor mental health/contentedness.
On child obesity, @LizHarris might have bits to add but perhaps the focus has been too much on individual choice/vilifying certain ingredients rather than looking more broadly at food environments, school food, parental income etc.

Q3. Only thing I’d add is transport costs- could link with current GM campaigns for greater public ownership of buses given current price disparities and removal of low-profit routes. One mum living in rural area spends £8 on a 2-bus trip to the supermarket: in the US, smaller stores have been subsidised to provide more fresh fruit/veg.

Q4- I’ll leave that for the LA folk!

Q5- predictably perhaps, my general point here would be that what we’ve learned from foodbanks is that things aren’t working- government’s not been doing its job properly, wages at the bottom haven’t kept up with living costs while incomes at the top have skyrocketed, and it’s hard-stretched communities that are picking up the pieces with responses that are well-intentioned and vital, but inadequate. While improving current provision vital, the burden of labour is falling upon the wrong sector to mitigate food poverty e.g. challenges for food banks of retaining volunteers (many are older) and while they try to provide further-reaching support (debt/welfare advice etc) it can be a real struggle to train volunteers with the complexity and fast-changing nature of advice, which should arguably be supported by government bodies (cuts to CAB etc)- part of a broader argument about the responsibility of government to uphold the Right to Food falling on voluntary efforts and enabling further rollback of entitlements…

Q15 looks comprehensive: appointing a minister responsible for such coordination and ensuring Right to Food has been one ask of EHUK etc…I’m no expert on agricultural policy but ensuring subsidies support healthier food as well as export-friendly or less ecologically-friendly food. The consultation-led Peoples Food Policy is a rich source of suggestions: In line with upcoming National Food Strategy, @Adrian_Morley has mentioned devolving powers over procurement; could this result in improved school meal provision?

Hi, Yes, i think something could be added about the role of nutritious school food - often the only hot meal of the day for many kids. When combined with whole school approaches to good, as encapsulated by Food for Life, this approach not only provides immediate benefit to pupils but can help equip them with skills to purchase and cook low cost healthy food. Budgets are increasingly being stretched and more schools opting to go with commercial food service companies. Could flag up Oldham school meals service here and a national best practice example.

Hi both, thanks for your responses, Charlie do you have any links for your suggested additions please (especially Q1)? Is your Tameside research published, and if not, can I quote you on it anyway please?

Thanks again for your responses, I’ve incorporated most of your points, quoted Charlie a couple of times and paraphrased Charlie once! Aiming to send around 2:30pm, so very much hope that’s all ok, but please do say if not!

Submitted! Thanks again for your help. House of Lords Select Committee on Food Poverty, Health and the Environment - Greater Manchester Poverty Action Response.pdf (616.1 KB)

Sorry, Tom: I’ve been at a symposium in Birmingham all day. The intention was to be plagiarised- hope it made some sense. Well done for putting together…

Dr Charlotte Spring

Research Associate

Urban Institute

University of Sheffield

219 Portobello Street

S1 4DP

+44 (0)7804143116

T: @eatingwaste

Please note I usually work Monday-Wednesday