Our media work is driven by the knowledge that people in poverty understand it better than anyone else.

That maxim may sound obvious, but while poverty attracts much attention in the UK media, the coverage is often flimsy and fleeting because people who truly understand it are left out.

We launched our poverty media unit in 2015 because of growing concern about the way the issues were being reported, and the fact that people in poverty were being routinely misrepresented or ignored altogether.

A big part of our work in the past five years has been in partnership with the National Union of Journalists, and that work has taken another promising step forward.

Supporters may recall that in 2016, we worked with the NUJ and people in poverty to produce a reporting guide, and in 2017 we worked with the union and the Reporters’ Academy to produce this short film:

 

2020: Further progress

In March, the NUJ hosted a round-table discussion event at its headquarters in London, for journalists, people in poverty and charities including Church Action on Poverty and Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

Martin Green, one of our trustees, was among six people with experience of poverty in Halifax, York and London. They were joined by around 15 journalists, consisting of reporters, photographers and members of the union’s ethics committee. Further work will also now follow, and we hope to update the guide. (The event was held in the first few days of March, prior to the advice against group gatherings)

Topics of conversation at the event included the way that over-dramatic stock images skew public perceptions, painting a narrow and extreme understanding of poverty in the public eye.

We talked also about the lack of diversity in newsrooms, with few journalists having grown up in poverty.

Sydnie Corley, from York Food Justice Alliance, challenged media preconceptions about what audiences want. “Journalists say they print what people want to read – but why not challenge them more to read something that challenges what they think?”

Mary Passeri, also from York, recounted her positive and negative experiences with journalists, and said: “You shouldn’t be making people in poverty feel like they’re on trial, to prove what they’re saying. Of course, fact-check things, but interview more sensitively and sincerely than sometimes happens.”

 

From left: Gavin Aitchison, Church Action on Poverty's media unit coordinator; Martin Green, one of our trustees; and Sydnie Corley and Mary Passeri of York Food Justice Alliance at the NUJ event in London.

Fundamentally, the speakers with experience of poverty called for deeper relationships with journalists and a more collaborative approach.

As Diana, from ATD Fourth World, said at the event: “If you are interviewing someone who might never have been asked their opinion before in their life, then it’s really important to ensure they have the opportunity to influence your narrative. We want to be part of designing stories together.”

Too often, journalists seek personal input only when a story is already written or nearing completion. ‘Case studies’ are sought for preconceived narratives, with little regard for the broader insights an interviewee may bring.

We know severe editorial cuts mean deeper coverage is not always easy, but several organisations (including Church Action on Poverty, Joseph Rowntree Foundation and On Road Media) are all now working with journalists and people in poverty on an ongoing basis, to support and enable coverage that is responsible, well-planned, considered and collaborative.  There is great potential for further enlightened and effective work.

A positive example

A few weeks earlier, that very approach showed how complicated issues can be conveyed powerfully and clearly to a large audience. Mary and Sydnie from York both campaign around food poverty but also have personal experience of the complexities and inadequacies of carer support in the UK. We worked with Joseph Rowntree Foundation and BBC News over a series of discussions, and Mary and Sydnie then told their stories on the BBC News at Six, to an audience of millions, showing how the lack of support keeps people trapped in poverty, and outlining what could help to make a difference.

You can read and watch that story here, on the BBC website. 

 

NUJ guide to reporting poverty

The original version of the NUJ guide to reporting poverty was produced in 2016 by Church Action on Poverty and the union’s Manchester and Salford branch. 

It was led by people with personal experience of poverty, sharing their views on what would constitute good journalism that might make a difference to society. It contains contributors’ own ideas and experiences, and also includes useful information that could enhance journalist’ understanding of the underlying causes of UK poverty.

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

How do you run a food bank in a pandemic? Here are 6 steps we’ve taken

Talking global solidarity in Byker

Reporting poverty well: another step forward

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

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New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

I am a volunteer and I manage our independent foodbank in Parson Cross, in North East Sheffield. We have been operating for over nine years and in the past twelve months we have been providing food parcels for around 90 households a week.

by Charlotte Killeya, from the Parson Cross Initiative

Almost two weeks have passed since I tried to order our regular Foodbank ‘top-up’ delivery from a supermarket online (see my previous blog article.) It feels much longer ago than that. Since then, life has changed more dramatically than any of us could have imagined. Unless we are a key worker, we have been told to stay at home. We can only venture beyond our front door to shop for essentials, to exercise locally once a day and to support someone who is vulnerable. For the vast majority of parents, our children are no longer at school. We can no longer visit friends and family. Contact with the outside world is now reliant on screens and phones, if we have them.  

Two weeks ago, we did manage to get a delivery slot with the supermarket. Items were substituted and we received less of some products. At the time, the focus was on panic buying, hoarding and fights over toilet rolls. We tweeted things like “Stop Hoarding, Start Sharing” and asked people if they could help foodbanks by donating any extra products that they could find. People spent days driving round different supermarkets trying to get us extra items. However, as we stood back from it all, we knew that we were facing a crisis that we, and the country, were not prepared for.

Anyone who has ever run a foodbank, or volunteered at one, will have experienced the feeling at the end of a session when you look at the shelves and realise that the food cupboard is bare. It’s something that we have got used to seeing: those gaping holes on the shelves.

Fortunately, in the past we have always managed to fill them again using donations of money and food. At times we have been astounded how quickly and generously the local community and other local food projects have supported us. However, each week there has always been that nagging question of doubt: “Will this be the week that we will run out of food and have to close our foodbank doors?”  We have continually said that this model of food access and distribution for the most vulnerable in our society is not sustainable and is not a solution to the underlying issues about why people use foodbanks.

Speaking truth to power

We have shared our fears far and wide. We have always believed that campaigning against the injustice we see is just as important as giving food. Like many charities, we have campaigned about the introduction of Universal Credit because we have seen the impact that it has having on people in our community. We have shared stories about how parents are going without food to feed their children and how people are having to make the choice between buying food and paying the bills. We have introduced new ways of offering support:  a social cafe, a pop-up food stall where people could choose food items, a self-referral system – lots of different ways of putting dignity, choice and community at the heart of what we are trying to achieve. Sometimes it has felt like we were shouting in the wind because the message just didn’t seem to get across. There are debates, articles in newspapers but it doesn’t seem long before the focus shifts.
How many more conversations can we have? How many more times can we share these experiences only to feel like those in power are not listening?

At crisis point

And now, we have this crisis that we could not have predicted. It became quickly apparent for us that we would not cope this time.

Many of our volunteers and helpers are elderly, have underlying health conditions, have family members who are vulnerable, are at home caring for their children or are already self-isolating with symptoms.

We knew that donations would likely become problematic as people were no longer able to buy the amount of food we would need. All of this would be coupled with the fact that more and more people would be in need of support. With much soul-searching, we made the decision to work with a larger Trussell Trust food bank in Sheffield who have access to more donors, space and volunteers. This is a pattern that we are likely to see repeated across the UK as some local foodbanks close their doors.

The problem that we urgently face in this Coronavirus crisis is the need for organised access and distribution of food nationally.

Panic-buying has been blamed for empty supermarket shelves, and for a time I thought this was true myself, because it was hard to step back from the footage we saw; but with time for reflection, I’m afraid that this is not the whole story.

Our food distribution has been largely based upon a system of just-in-time stock control. Supermarkets do not have vast warehouses on site, but instead rely on deliveries that are timed to meet with drops in stock levels. The way supermarkets manage stock control is linked to consumer behaviour. Before this pandemic, many consumers shopped frequently for smaller amounts. Now, many people are opting to go less often and therefore are buying more items each visit.

This change in behaviour is having a big impact on the availability of food and therefore we are seeing supermarkets ‘ration’ the amount of food we can buy per visit.

Then, there is the issue of access to food. For years, foodbanks have supported people accessing food when they have not been able to do so through the market. This is the very definition of “food insecurity” in the UK: there never has been a shortage of food in the last decade, just the problem of people being able to access it fairly. For the many reasons that we know, people within our communities have not been able to buy the essentials they need and foodbanks have been there to fill in the gaps. Our own foodbank never claimed that we were able to feed a family for a week, our parcels were more of a ‘helping hand’ a way of helping to subsidise low incomes.
So, the idea that foodbanks and the rest of the charity sector will be able to somehow “Feed The Nation” at this time is an impossibility and a burden that we cannot and should not bear.
This week alone, almost half a million people have signed up to Universal Credit and will be waiting five weeks until their first payment. Foodbanks up and down the country will not be able to deal with this sudden and dramatic increase in numbers. We have spoken to people who only a few weeks ago had a job, ran their own business or were self-employed are now saying they will soon have to start making the choice between paying bills and buying food. These are, as we keep hearing, unprecedented times.

The answer...?

So, what’s the solution? Increasingly there are calls from organisations such as the Independent Food Aid Network, Sustain and Nourish for the government to implement a Universal Basic Income. If people have the security of more money in their pockets they will be able to better support themselves. There are also calls for a National Food Service with a more centralised approach pushing forward the argument that every adult and child has a right to food. Questions have also been raised about why we aren’t seeing central government coordination. Why isn’t there a Ministry of Food, after all there was during the World Wars? These ideas share the principle that a centralised, co-ordinated response needs to be achieved – and quickly. It should not have taken a pandemic for us to arrive at these conclusions; there have been warning signs.
Foodbanks have been saying for years that we were under enormous pressure. Whatever remedies are put in place by Government, both at a local and national level, they need to be clear, they need to be fair, they need to be universal and they need to be implemented quickly.

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

"If we are not community, we are nothing"

Throughout the Coronavirus crisis, Church Action on Poverty will be posting messages and reflections from a number of our partners around the country.

Here, Nick Waterfield, from Parson Cross Initiative in Sheffield, looks ahead to the end of the outbreak, and what might happen next.

If you want to watch his video, above, perhaps grab a tea of a coffee first and spend a few moments reflecting with Nick. Alternatively, an abridged version of his message is below.

Let’s spend some time together, reflecting on the Coronavirus situation as it is at the moment, and what implications that might have for all of us who are concerned about issues around poverty and the situation in the UK and coming out on the other side. While we are in it, and all our concerns, prayers and worries are in the immediate, I think it is important still that we take time out both to care for ourselves and to already think about what happens on the other side.

We know there will be more sadness, there will be more hardship to come, but I think already there are signs of what we need to put in place for once we have come through this.

We’ve seen a deep affection and also a deep acknowledgement of the need for a good quality health service available for all at all times. We can’t pay for that by any means other than taxation or by social responsibility. It’s a shared resource.

This crisis has shown perhaps more than anything practical ever could do, the interdependentness of each other. If we are not community, we are nothing.

It has also shown that there has been an over-reliance on non-statutory and charity responses. It’s worried me, as somebody who has run a food bank for nine years here in Sheffield that at least in these initial phases that the government, locally and nationally, has seen food banks as a means of distributing food to more and more people. Food banks that were never set up even to feed the numbers we were feeding before the crisis are now being seen to feed even more, as if that response was somehow appropriate.

Reflect about what is it that we want to be as a society going forward. How will we value community, value each and every citizen? How will we ensure that people are not reliant on charity but that as a society we see that inter-connectedness and we learn to explore it in new ways?

How, as a society, may we take this terrible, terrible set of events across the world as an opportunity to reshape the world, to reshape our attitude to climate change, to hunger and to poverty? How may we see this as a God-given opportunity to actually reimagine the world, and out of the hardship, the misery, the sadness and heartbreak that we will inevitably, sadly, have to go through, how might we see this as an opportunity to build something better on its back?

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

How can charities and community projects best ensure we remain closely connected, while keeping our distance?

That has been a crucial question all over the country, during this coronavirus outbreak.

We all must play our part in slowing the spread of the virus, but community can be maintained and even strengthened, by finding new ways to deliver vital services and support.

What has been working well for your project, and what ideas can you share? Many of our partners have been active, and this is a summary of what some of them have been doing in the past fortnight.  

The Cedarwood Trust on the Meadow Well estate in North Shields closed even before it as forced to, conscious of the underlying health concerns of many of the regulars.

Some community work moved online, with the charity hosting conversations, quizzes and audio messages on its facebook page, but much was also done out and about in the community, until the distancing rules changed. By the time the Prime Minister ordered a major lockdown on March 23, the charity had already distributed 2,400 leaflets locally offering support, cooked 181 meals for local families including 55 people in isolation, was working with the food bank to identify and support families in need, and was making more than 20 phone calls a day to local people.

Wayne Dobson, chief executive, says:

“It has been really important still keeping community going, even though the centre is closed.”

Meeting the needs of people who do not have internet access has been a widespread challenge. At Thrive Teesside in Stockton, manger Tracey Herrington says: “Many of our beneficiaries are not connected to the internet, and we have been doing more calls to check on people and to stay connected, and to respond to queries. There are situations where people were maybe not aware of schemes that were available for support. So much that happens in a community is only advertised online and we need to ensure everyone is contacted. There are a lot of people who have only just been keeping afloat. It’s not about what’s right or wrong in what’s happening, but the reality is they will not stay afloat any more. Incomes were already inadequate and contracts did not cover priority bills. The repercussions going down the line will be massive and this highlights that, if you do not have people with experience of an issue, you cannot fully understand the implications when something happens.”

For those who are online, Thrive has been tweeting extracts from the inspiration Thriving Teesside book that community members produced last year. Do take a look.

It’s a similar picture in Sheffield, at Parson Cross Initiative (PXI). Nick Waterfield, from the project, says: “We want people to know we have not disappeared; we are just not there at the moment. We too have a lot of people without internet access, including some of our volunteers, but we have other volunteers ringing round to check on people.”

PXI has long run a range of community projects through the week, and it has tried to stick to the schedule online. It has set up a new facebook page, Keep Close with PXI, and is using it to very consciously hold the community together, such as by posting craft club photos when the club would ordinarily meet, and inviting members to share their own photos online too. In a community where marginalisation and isolation were already big issues, it has been vital not to lose the moments that were, for many, a weekly highlight. “The idea is to keep the rhythm of the community going,” says Nick.

The charity teamed up with other food banks in Sheffield for its food distribution work, but Nick says:

“Among the clamour to keep food banks open, let’s remember they were never the answer to poverty in the first place and they’re not the answer now. They’re prioritising food bank workers as key workers, but that’s insanity and insulting. They’re expecting our volunteers to put themselves on the front line because they’re not putting enough money into people’s pockets.”

All projects that provide food aid faced enormous pressure but have been adapting as much as possible. Food aid. Many were already facing unsustainable levels of need, and knew that society could not allow more people to be swept into debt and destitution. Brighton and Hove Food Partnership drew up plans with all its partners in the city, sourcing and distributing food, checking in by phone with vulnerable and isolated people, and setting up an online fundraising campaign to pay for bulk purchases to meet need.

Most of our Your Local Pantry projects remained open for business, as they are essential sources of food for their communities and members. At St Luke’s in Peckham, the pantry had to move from the usual small room into the main hall, to allow more space between people, and unexpectedly creating a quicker and more effective system in the process.

How has your project changed the way it works, and how is it maintaining community? Take part in our online  survey and let us know!

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

How do you run a food bank in a pandemic? Here are 6 steps we’ve taken

Talking global solidarity in Byker

Reporting poverty well: another step forward

Food banks can’t meet this demand. We urgently need a new plan

A video message from Nick in Sheffield

How 5 of our partners are maintaining community from a distance

How are you and your community responding to Coronavirus? Complete our survey and let us know

Staying connected on the fringes – can you share stories of your experiences?

Stay at home, stay connected

No one should go hungry because of Coronavirus. Call for urgent action!

Coronavirus food alert: Support our calls for Government action

Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission launch

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Here at Church Action on Poverty, our priority is to help people stay connected during this crisis, and ensure that people on the margins aren't cut off or left behind.

Here at Church Action on Poverty, our priority is to help people stay connected during this crisis, and ensure that people on the margins aren’t cut off or left behind.

We are still working on our response, and we would like to hear your insights into…

  • how the crisis is affecting people locally;
  • how you are responding;
  • how you would like Church Action on Poverty to respond.

If you can share your insights, it will help us keep people connected so we can all support one another. If you have some time, please complete our online survey today.

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

During the current crisis, Church Action on Poverty's priority is to keep people connected and make sure no one is cut off. We invite creatives and anyone experiencing the crisis to share content through our digital platforms. We want to understand the issues people are facing and spread messages of positivity and resilience, whilst building a movement and ensuring people are socially connected during these challenging times.

You may have been engaged in our projects or campaigns previously. Or you may be experiencing one of the following emerging issues for the first time – or something else entirely:

  • Self-employed and losing work, finding it difficult to navigate Universal Credit and live day to day in the interim
  • Being a zero-hours contract worker and not being let go, but given no shifts
  • A student unable to claim anything, with little loan support and possibly losing part-time employment
  • Being fired by your employer before the government grant has started
  • Cash flow issues in business meaning the grant won’t protect employees unless they can access it now
  • Working for a business that’s staying open but isn’t on the essential list, meaning staff can’t get childcare
  • A young person experiencing home schooling for the first time and not having access to school meal provision

If you have a story to share, you could contribute just once or on a regular basis. You can choose what kind of content you could contribute:

  • Blog posts
  • Film or videos
  • Live streams
  • Spoken word and poetry
  • Music or songs
  • Short stories
  • Art
  • Photography or a photo diary

Equally, if you have an idea for another creative project, or have expertise in one of the above and could deliver a short online workshop to train others, we’d love you to get in touch.

We are keen to hear from and have contributions from as diverse a group of people as possible. Be part of our movement and get in touch – contact Ben or Kathryn:

Ben-Pearson3
Empowerment Programme Officer
Kathryn-Cheetham
Programme Manager

Understandably this is a busy time for us, so we apologise in advance for any delay in responding.

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

How do you run a food bank in a pandemic? Here are 6 steps we’ve taken

Talking global solidarity in Byker

Reporting poverty well: another step forward

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

A prayer of hope amidst Coronavirus, from our friend Revd Raj Bharath Patta:

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Here's a message from our Director, Niall Cooper:

Please email your MP now and call for action to make sure no one goes hungry because of Coronavirus:

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Government must release funds so that people can buy the food they need to be able to self-isolate.


Over 500 people have emailed their MPs in support of this call to action. Thanks for your support!

We will share updates soon about what action has been taken – and what still needs to be done.


 

The Government and Chief Medical Officer say they will soon advise millions of older and medically vulnerable people to self-isolate for a long period. Advice has already been issued for more people to work from home, to avoid non-essential travel, and for people not to frequent places such as pubs, clubs, theatres and other such social venues. This will mean job losses and drops in income.

Many will struggle to follow the advice to self-isolate either because they already cannot afford enough food to cover this period; because their income is likely to drop substantially, placing pressure on their finances; or because they do not have support to access food and other basic necessities.

We are therefore calling on the Government urgently to release funds to eradicate household food insecurity, and to ease certain costs and welfare constraints, as a priority response to the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak. This unprecedented situation requires an urgent and unprecedented level of response.

If you would like to add your organisation to the list of those supporting the following statement (a list that we will update periodically on this page), please send your name, job title and the name of your organisation to: imogen@sustainweb.org.

Coronavirus Food Alert: Call for Government action - a joint statement

Low-income households – children, working-age people and pensioners – need to have enough money so that they can buy the food they need. This is true at all times, but the outbreak of COVID-19 Coronavirus means that people living on a low income, or those whose incomes drop dramatically, will struggle to afford sufficient food. This in turn will put pressure on social services at a time when these must prioritise support for older people and those with certain medical conditions.

Food banks and emergency food aid providers do commendable work to help people in crisis; and many businesses and communities will also step up to support older and housebound people with food deliveries. However, they will not be able to cope with the extremely high level of need – food banks were already struggling before Coronavirus. In any case, communal food banks are not a solution at a time when people are being asked to minimise contact with others, to slow the spread of Coronavirus.

To protect and support all members of our community, we ask that HM Treasury and the Department for Work and Pensions act immediately to enable low-income households to have the financial resilience to be able to self-isolate. The following actions will also relieve avoidable pressure on the local authorities, frontline charities, businesses and voluntary groups who now need to focus more effort on supporting older and medically vulnerable people:

  • Suspend the five-week wait for Universal Credit. Make the advance payment a grant, not a loan.
  • Up-rate child benefit immediately when schools close to cover the cost of children’s food and enable families to buy what they need. Suspend the two-child limit. Charities and academics are already calling for cash transfers to help families cope with potential school closures.
  • Ensure there is adequate financial support available to people with the “no recourse to public funds” immigration condition so that they too are able to afford to follow self-isolation advice.
  • Make adequate sick pay more widely available, to include freelancers, temporary workers, those who are self-employed and those on zero-hour or low-hour contracts.
  • Pay cash grants to frontline charities that, alongside their main work, provide meals for especially vulnerable people, so that the charities can buy the food they need – for example, homeless shelters and domestic violence refuges. Note: These groups do not include frontline food aid charities such as food banks, emergency meal providers, community kitchens or social supermarkets – cash grants direct to low-income households will reduce need to access such already stretched charitable food aid providers.
  • Give local authorities and other frontline public-sector providers sufficient money to make crisis grants or welfare assistance schemes to households in need – the £500m Hardship Fund can be a key part of this.
  • Consider other ways to maximise household financial resilience, for example by capping or freezing utility bills, as has happened in Italy.

Organisations signing up to this statement support the general principles of the approach set out above. Some also have specialist expertise in the specific interventions recommended, although not all work on these technical issues in a professional capacity. All are united in support of efforts to limit the impact of the COVID-19 Coronavirus outbreak and to protect and support the most vulnerable.

The statement has been coordinated by Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming, a registered charity that runs or contributes to several alliance initiatives to tackle the root causes of food poverty.

Supporting organisations:

Kath Dalmeny, Chief Executive, Sustain the Alliance for Better Food and Farming

Sabine Goodwin, Coordinator, Independent Food Aid Network

Niall Cooper, Director, Church Action on Poverty

Dr Maria Bryant, Chair, Association for the Study of Obesity (ASO)

Tom Croft and Diana Skelton, National Coordinators, ATD Fourth World

Kemi Akinola, CEO, Be Enriched

Ali Harris, Director, Equally Ours

Anna Taylor OBE, Executive Director, Food Foundation

Dan Crossley, Executive Director, Food Ethics Council

Dr Helen Crawley, Director, First Steps Nutrition Trust

Victoria Williams, Director, Food Matters

Dee Woods, co-founder, Granville Community Kitchen

Jamie Burton, Chair of the Board of Trustees, Just Fair

Clara Widdison, Programme Manager, Kitchen Social

Alex Cunningham, CEO, Magic Breakfast

Carmel McConnell MBE, Founder of Magic Breakfast

Jane Streather, Chair, North East Child Poverty Commission

Helena Houghton, Programme Director, Royal Academy of Culinary Arts’ Adopt a School Trust

Duncan Stephenson, Deputy CEO, The Royal Society for Public Health

Stephanie Wood, Founder/CEO, School Food Matters

Rob Percival, Head of Policy, Soil Association

Abi Brunswick, Director, Project 17

Dr Rachel Loopstra, Lecturer in Nutrition, Kings College London

Dr Aaron Reeves, Associate Professor, University of Oxford

Dr Sinead Furey, Lecturer, Ulster University

Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford, Lecturer in the Department of Politics and International Relations, University of Sheffield

Dr Andrew Williams, Lecturer in Human Geography, Cardiff University

Dr Maddy Power, Research Fellow, University of York

Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham

Tim Baker, Headteacher, Charlton Manor Primary 

Steven Cross, Head Chef, Park Community School

More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Reflections on living in lockdown: shopping

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

How do you run a food bank in a pandemic? Here are 6 steps we’ve taken

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Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission launch

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More ‘bold and courageous’ action needed to protect millions from biggest income shock in living memory

What is the churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus? (part 1)

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Our local group in the North East is supporting the new Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission. They sent us this short report from the launch event.

The launch took place on 5 March at Gateshead council chambers. The Poverty Truth Commission has been set up by South West Tyneside Methodist circuit. Church Action on Poverty North East is not directly involved in the Commission, but does support it.

The launch event included several testimonies from poverty commissioners. One man gave an account of his journey from comfortable home, house, car, family, to mental health problems and homelessness following redundancy. I felt this story spoke volumes to those within and without churches who feel that this could never happen to them, and sometimes seek to blame those who are unemployed or homeless as being victims of their own inadequacies.

A lady gave her story via video, outlining the financial problems of grandparents looking after grandchildren full time. She stated that the cost of the state directly looking after the four grandchildren would be considerable, but that grandparents are expected to do the caring without state assistance. Catherine McKinnell, MP for Newcastle North, is now chair of an all-party group looking into benefits for kinship carers during the summer, so perhaps progress can be made in this area.

During this and other stories, the effect of mental health issues and the support received from mental health services was of considerable importance. The difficulty of dealing with DWP and Universal Credit system did not help people’s mental well-being.

Blaydon MP Liz Twist attended and has stated that she will be working with the PTC.

Lucy Zwolinska, the Gateshead PTC lead, has contacted those present at the launch and outlined the next steps for the PTC:

We’re encouraged that you have committed to be part of our ‘friends of Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission’ , but we would also ask you this: what will you do next? Is there anything you will do differently in your life or work because of the stories you heard on Thursday? Will you slip back into business as usual, or are you compelled to take the next step of a journey for change with us?  Gateshead Poverty Truth Commission will now accelerate, meeting regularly and joined by an equal number of Commissioners holding positions of leadership Gateshead (you’ll recall these are called Civic and Business Commissioners). Together we will begin to unpick the injustices of poverty and explore together how change can and should take place using the expertise of the people you heard from on Thursday. Invites to some of Gateshead’s foremost Civic and Business Leaders have already gone out, but we call out to you today to speak to us.

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