Darwen gets #Hangry

Young people like Corey, Tia and their friends didn’t need anyone to tell them what food poverty felt like. They were living the reality every day.

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When we began working together, they talked of going all day at school without food. They told how hunger pangs made it harder to concentrate in class, harder to learn. They told of other effects. Low mood. Having to turn down invitations. Stigma. Embarrassment.

“I used to be terrified to go up and get my free school meal,” recalls Corey.

Say if you’re in maths class, you're not gonna be thinking like pluses and minuses, you're gonna be thinking about your next meal and where it's coming from, when you don't have any money. The lack of concentration is so bad... There was a young girl who told us, when she's in class and her stomach starts growling, she presses down on it so that it doesn't make a noise, because she's ashamed of what her friends’ll say. No child should get put through that.

———— Corey

Watch the video and you’ll hear the girls’ insights: that something as incremental as being asked for £1 for a school charity day could become a barrier, and that when you have a budget of £2 for lunch, it’s really difficult to make the healthy choice.

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children
live in UK homes where a healthy diet is unaffordable, according to the Food Foundation
On the national stage: being photographed for the Sunday Times Magazine

From local to national​

In their town, food poverty was so widespread that some thought it was an inevitable part of life, but the teenagers had a vision for a better society, and have been taking a stand. Through the Food Power project backed by Church Action on Poverty, they are helping to drive a national movement to help end the grip of food poverty, not only in their corner of Lancashire, but in communities all over the country. They’ve found their message, and told it on a local, regional and national stage, to MPs in Parliament, on Channel 4 News, and through a growing network of like-minded compassionate activists, determined to bring more justice to their community, and determined to stop more people being swept into poverty. Corey, Tia and their school friends are part of the Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance, which aims to harness and share expertise and resources across the borough, to grow, provide, cook and eat food to improve the diverse community’s health and wellbeing, enabling the towns to loosen the chains of food poverty. So how does a localised campaign go from being a fledgling idea to something that captures the attention of politicians and national broadcasters? It’s testament to relationships, compassion, belief and determination.
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Listening to the real experts​

Our empowerment officer Ben Pearson knew the youngsters and their school through his previous work, and met with the youngsters to discuss what they wanted to do. They shared their experiences and understanding of food poverty, the structures in society that cause it, and possible ways to tackle it at community level.

They made a video to talk about their experiences and their vision for change.

School dinners are all right but I think they could improve. They’re quite dear… Say you get chips and a sausage roll with gravy, that's £1.50, so you've got 50p left to spend on a little carton of juice. It's either that or you can buy a bottle of water, which is 90p for some reason. I don't know why 90p, that's quite dear for a bottle of water – it's got no juice or anything in it, no sugar. So you can get just a bottle of water and some chips, and then that’s your £2 gone.

————  Corey  ————

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Building momentum

As Ben worked with the Blackburn with Darwen Food Alliance, the young people became increasingly involved, sharing their experiences with the other organisations in the alliance, and becoming recognised as experts by virtue of their own experiences. Their stories and ideas shaped the alliance’s priorities locally and they took part in empowerment exchanges in early 2018, working with friends and classmates to gather more stories, views and ideas.

As well as the video above, young people from Darwen Aldridge Enterprise Studio produced a zine capturing some of the personal stories, and energising young people to talk about the issues that mattered to them. From then on, the activism and campaign have snowballed…

Co-designing their own workshops to speak about their experiences
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September 2018

The alliance launched its Darwen Gets Hangry campaign, seeking to mobilise more people in the local community to stand up against the outrage of food poverty, encouraging people to share their experiences, so the community as a whole could find the key that unlocks food poverty.

October 2018

Corey and Tia spoke to and with campaigners and charity workers from around the country, when they took centre stage at the End Hunger UK conference, wowing delegates with their passion, insight and determination.

January 2019

They traveled to Westminster to meet MPs face to face, as part of the Food Foundation’s Children’s Future Food Inquiry, and that same night they featured on Channel 4 News, again sharing their experiences and urging the Government to do more to create a just and compassionate society for their generation to grow up in.

April 2019

The young people told their story on the local ITV News, challenging their MP to listen to their concerns. 

And they went to Westminster again, this time with Dame Emma Thompson to launch the charter of the Children’s Future Food Inquiry.

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Everyone should have access to good food. No one should have to go to bed hungry.

———  Niall Cooper, Director of Church Action on Poverty

Church Action on Poverty and hunger

Food poverty is not a new phenomenon, but the rate at which it has grown in recent years has shocked people across the country, sharpening the focus of many organisations. Today, much of Church Action on Poverty’s work is focused on ensuring everyone has access to good food and no one has to go to bed hungry:

Run in partnership with Sustain, Food Power supports local communities to work together to reduce food poverty. We have established and supported more than 50 food poverty alliances, which respond to food poverty and its root causes locally, amplify the voices of people with personal experience, and evaluate and share what works well.
We are a core partner in the End Hunger UK campaign, which sets out policy changes that could create a society free from hunger.
We jointly run the Your Local Pantry franchise, which enables communities to run their own projects, greatly reducing their weekly shopping bills.

It takes courage to speak out on any issue, hunger included, but by speaking truth to power, the young people of Lancashire are making change more likely.

Through programmes like Food Power, Church Action on Poverty is helping to harness that energy and hope, creating a network of like-minded activists.

We thought we were the only town who did it. Like, we thought we were the only ones who knew about food poverty. And then next thing you know, people from Glasgow, Wales, Leicester… and then there was us. It was just good to know that other people wanted to be involved and other people wanted to make a change.

————  Corey  ————

It takes courage to speak out on any issue, hunger included, but by speaking truth to power, the young people of Lancashire are making change more likely.

Through programmes like Food Power, Church Action on Poverty is helping to harness that energy and hope, creating a network of like-minded activists.

We thought we were the only town who did it. Like, we thought we were the only ones who knew about food poverty. And then next thing you know, people from Glasgow, Wales, Leicester… and then there was us. It was just good to know that other people wanted to be involved and other people wanted to make a change.

————  Corey  ————

What can YOU do?

Do more things like this - actually raise more awareness of what food poverty is, and help people realise that going to a food bank isn't bad. If you need to do something to feed your family, then you have to.

———— Tia

You can help people like Corey and Tia to make their voices heard and work for change. Together, we can end childhood hunger and food insecurity.

Join us now!

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Darwen Gets Hangry

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