On Tuesday we had another of our weekly Gatherings on the Margins, this time focusing especially on the issue of food insecurity.

We are having these gatherings every Tuesday at 2 pm. Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

These gatherings seek to provide connection, inspiration, news, encouragement and ideas for action for people across the country who are concerned about or seeking to respond to the impact of the coronavirus crisis on people and communities on the margins.

On Tuesday we were joined by Kay Johnson from the Lancashire Larder, who told us about how they have turned their café into a service for delivering cooked meals to people. The Larder are also running a scheme during the school holidays for families in Preston that would usually access free school meals. They are providing these families with ingredient packs and daily video recipes, so the kids can cook their own healthy meals. You can find out more about the Lancashire Larder here.

We heard from Bernadette Askins about how a foodbank in South Tyneside is adapting to the higher demand  and increased difficulty in accessing food supply, while doing what they can to keep everyone safe. They are now doing deliveries for people who have to isolate and who have no car, so they don’t have to use public transport. They have also started delivering Family Food Packs with five days’ worth of food.

Tricia, from Bridging the Gap, filled us in on various different projects in Glasgow that are keeping people connected and providing food for those who need it.

Ben Pearson told us about some of the experiences of some young people that he works with in Lancashire. They would usually have free school meals, but the replacements are not accessible. For example, where the school had provided supermarket vouchers, access to the internet and email was required to receive them, and the use of a printer and paper in order use them in shops. Furthermore, the vouchers are only valid in the mainstream supermarkets, which are not accessible to those who do not live near them.

Overall, this gathering gave people the opportunity to express their frustrations about the way that lockdown makes accessing food so much more difficult for some people. But, despite all our frustrations, we ended on a positive note. James Henderson from Transforming Communities Together told us about the #peopleofhope initiative, which is aiming to spread positivity and hope. You can here him talking about it here:

We also heard from Matt Sowerby, our Poet in Digital Residence. He wants to hear people’s stories and experiences so he can work with you on expressing them creatively. You can contact him by email at Mattsowerby.poetry@gmail.com, or on Twitter: @matt_sourbee, if you want to get involved.

The next gathering will be on Tuesday 14 April, on the theme of people with disabilities. You can join us on Zoom by clicking the link below:

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Our Director Niall Cooper calls for further action to ensure the outbreak doesn't sweep millions of people further into poverty

This builds on the coronavirus food alert which we issued with partner organisations at the start of the outbreak.

Play Video

The numbers swept into poverty in the past month are on a scale unseen since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Further bold and courageous action from Government is needed to stem the tide of poverty and destitution over the coming weeks and months, which goes significantly beyond the measures already announced. There is an increasingly compelling case for a one-off cash payment to every household in the country, to ensure they have the means to buy food, pay rent and bills and tide them through the next few months and to provide the economic stimulus to kickstart the economy once shops and businesses, pubs and restaurants start to reopen in the coming months.

Whilst the measures taken to tackle the threat posed by the global Coronavirus pandemic are undoubtedly essential, the economic cost is disproportionately falling on the poorest and most vulnerable.  The numbers swept into poverty and destitution in the past month are of a scale not seen since the Great Depression nearly a century ago. Government measures to mitigate the impact have been impressive, but there is growing evidence that hundreds of thousands – and potentially millions – will slip through the net, and face increasing poverty and destitution.

The response at community level, by food banks and other community projects, has been heroic, with many seeing a doubling or trebling in the numbers turning to them for support. However, it is clear that charitable and voluntary action cannot avert the scale of crisis of poverty now affecting millions of people across the country.  In the light of this, further ‘bold and courageous’ Government action is required to match some of the radical measures being rolled out by nations in the grip of the crisis.

A global economic catastrophe: the biggest economic recession since the 1920s

Coronavirus is a global pandemic, with unprecedented global economic impacts. According to the International Labour Organisation (IL0), 81% of the global workforce of 3.3 billion people have had their workplace fully or partly closed.  According to ILO director Guy Ryder:

“Workers and businesses are facing catastrophe, in both developed and developing economies”.

Analysis undertaken by the Financial Times shows that the UK economy is heading for a recession that is forecast to be deeper than the 2009 financial crisis and one of the most severe since 1900:

Almost a fifth of small businesses "at risk of collapse within month"

Far from being just a ‘short-term’ close-down, there are very real long-term risks to the economy, with multiple studies showing that large numbers of businesses may not survive the lockdown.

The British Chambers of Commerce (BCC) have reported that companies across the country are suffering from a sharp and significant fall in domestic and overseas sales as lockdown measures brought many firms close to collapse, threatening widespread job losses.

A separate survey reported in the Guardian last week found that almost a fifth of UK small businesses are at risk of collapsing within the next month as they struggle to secure emergency cash meant to support them through the coronavirus lockdown.

In total, almost one million small businesses across Britain are feared to be at risk of collapsing within the next month as they struggle to secure emergency cash, despite the government’s efforts to cushion the economic blow and the Bank of England lowering interest rates to provide cheap financing.

The young, women and the low-paid hardest hit

The scale of ‘income shock’ that literally millions of people experienced virtually without warning in the space of just over a fortnight is difficult to comprehend. Exact figures are not yet clear, but at least 4-5 million workers have almost certainly suffered a major income shock, taking into account those who have lost their jobs (without the option of being put on furlough), the self-employed and small business owners.

Some workers have been hit harder than others, with young people, women and those in low-paid jobs hardest hit, as they are employed in larger numbers in the sectors affected by the shutdown, i.e. restaurants, shops, transport and leisure facilities.

According to research by the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS), the lockdown will hit young workers the hardest. Employees aged under 25 were about two and a half times as likely to work in a sector that is now shut down as other employees.Low earners are seven times as likely as high earners to have worked in a sector that is now shut down, whilst women were about one third more likely to work in a sector that is now shut down than men.

Low-income households less able to weather income shocks

Lower-income households will also tend to find it harder to weather any income shocks that the crisis will bring, as a greater proportion of their spending goes towards essentials and bills that will be harder to cut if they experience income falls, according to separate analysis also by the IFS.

Many households are experiencing falls in their income as a result of the economic and health policy responses to the coronavirus crisis – often sharp falls. What they normally spend their money on will matter for how well they can weather this storm. If a household typically spends much of its budget on essential or inflexible items, it has less scope to adjust to a lower income by reducing spending without incurring relatively severe hardship. Hence it is relatively likely to run down savings, miss bill payments, go into rent arrears, or go (further) into debt.

In spite of Government measures, millions remain without cash

The UK Government measures to mitigate the impact of the lockdown on individuals and businesses, announced by Chancellor Rishi Sunak over the past two weeks, have been impressive and universally welcomed. However, millions of people across Britain still risk falling through gaps in the coronavirus wage subsidy plan and benefits system.

As Revd Clare Downing, an Anglican priest in a low-income neighbourhood in West London, described this week:

“We’re seeing so many people adversely affected during this time of lockdown and the impact of the virus in our community. The estates in our area are densely populated and many flats are overcrowded; health conditions and life expectancy are already lower than average; child poverty, food poverty, isolation and mental health struggles are issues people already live with on a daily basis – add to all that the impact of lockdown, increased concerns about health, and bereavements from Covid-19 and you’ve got a pretty horrid situation on your hands. Yesterday, a member of our church family lost her mother, she lived on the same estate in a nearby block and her death has affected family members and neighbours. Today another woman hears that her housing benefit has been stopped (some query or other) so she’s trying to feed three children, with no income at present, keep them entertained in a small flat with no outdoor play space and now has to find an extra £140 a week to cover rent until they reinstate benefits.”

A million new claims for Universal Credit: But how many have been paid?

According to the Department for Work and Pensions, nearly a million people “successfully applied” for Universal Credit during the last fortnight in March. This is almost 10 times as in a normal two-week period, and has placed a huge strain on DWP resources.

However, it is important to note that “successfully applied” is not the same as “having received any cash support”, but rather means just that they have managed to register an application. This in itself was no mean feat, with helplines inundated, and at one point, a “virtual queue’ to apply online (the main method for accessing Universal Credit) of up to 145,000 people. What is unknown is how many failed to “successfully apply”, do not have the means to apply online, were defeated by the virtual queuing or the complexity of the information required from them, or are simply not aware that they might be eligible for Universal Credit or other benefits in the current situation.

As Tracey Herrington, project manager for Thrive Teesside, reported to me last week: 

“We are unable to stay in contact with some of our most vulnerable beneficiaries as they do not have phones or access to the internet. People have lost their jobs and an income to the household, some are unable to access Universal Credit so will be without one income which they have previously relied upon to ‘keep afloat’.”  

With Universal Credit’s much-criticised five-week wait for the first monthly payment still in place, and potentially long delays whilst claims are assessed, many of the one million new claimants face the prospect of waiting weeks to receive cash. Some may opt for ‘cash advances’, but as these are in the form of loans, others will be put off by the prospect of taking on more debts as a result. Those who do receive their first Universal Credit payment in the next few weeks will be in for a nasty shock, when – even with the recent £20 a week uplift – they realise that UK unemployment benefit levels are amongst the lowest in Europe.

Millions could fail to benefit from Government support packages

Meanwhile, there are significant concerns that in spite of the various Government support packages, up to four million self-employed workers will still get no support.

Highlighting sizeable gaps in the government plan to pay 80% of employees’ salaries and self-employed workers’ profits as the crisis mounts, the IFS warns that 2 million people who work for themselves would not be protected because they do not earn enough from self-employment to be eligible; earn more than a £50,000 threshold; or only started out working for themselves within the past year and therefore missing the threshold to prove their past income to receive wage subsidies. A further 2 million people who run their own company will also slip through gaps in the safety net, because they pay themselves much of their income in dividends, and less through a salary.

Workers who lose their job completely will not be helped by the schemes as more companies across Britain consider cutting jobs, while those who have to take unpaid leave to cover caring responsibilities, or who face a cut in their earnings but continue to work, could also be left worse off.

Ensuring no one is left to sink into poverty, debt and destitution

Given the unpredictability of the current situation, and the fact that many of the Government schemes have yet to be fully implemented, it is hard at this point in time to be precise as to what further Government action will stem the growing tide of poverty, debt and destitution.

In the UK, the Trades Union Congress (TUC) has called for a package of measures to protect jobs, provide proper sick pay for all and protect the livelihoods of those who lose their jobs, by radically improving Universal Credit and a wider package of support for households and renters in particular.

A time to be bold – a time for courage

But even these measures may be too piecemeal to ensure that the ‘gaps’ are filled and no one goes without as a result of the crisis, not just in the immediate future, but from the longer-term effects which will undoubtedly continue to be felt for months and years to come.

Given the scale and urgency of the situation, other countries have introduced much more radical and far-reaching schemes: in the United States, the Federal Government’s $2 trillion economic rescue package included a ‘parachute payment’ of $1,200 to each US citizen. In Spain, the Government is working on plans to roll out a Universal Basic Income to assist all Spanish families.

In many areas of public life, policies previously thought inconceivable have overnight been introduced. In the light of the perfect storm engulfing millions of households across the UK, there is an increasingly compelling case for a one-off cash payment to every household in the country, to ensure that they have the means to buy food, pay the rent and bills and tide them through the next few weeks and to provide the economic stimulus to kickstart the economy once shops and businesses, pubs and restaurants start to reopen over the coming months.

As Chancellor Rishi Sunak has said, the support needed is:

“on a scale unimaginable only a few weeks ago. This is not a time for ideology and orthodoxy, this is a time to be bold – a time for courage.”

Reflections on living in lockdown: grief

The churches’ role in responding to Coronavirus (part 2)

Reflections on living in lockdown: money

Gathering on the Margins – 7 April

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, 31 March

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

Humanity, dignity, poverty

Church Action on Poverty’s approach to Coronavirus

Speaking Truth to Power in Gateshead

“I rang our food bank supplier but there was little they could do”

Food Power Toolkit

News release: Hundreds of community church leaders join call on UK Churches to speak truth to power

Speaking Truth to Power: North East event for Church Action on Poverty Sunday 2020

Make like Moses

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

What is the gospel imperative for churches in this challenging time? Church Action on Poverty trustee Stef Benstead has been reflecting on what she's seen. In this first post, she thinks about Jesus' ministry.

Every time I see another group serving the local community, I feel sick. Not because the work isn’t good and important and vital, but because it is good and important and vital and it should have been us. It should have been the church.

What’s worse, I find myself being assured by church people that it’s okay that we’re not meeting practical needs because so-and-so secular group is doing it. As if God said “if you love as the pagans love, you’re doing great” or even “if you just focus on the soul and leave the body to the pagans, that’s great”. When God actually told us to love more than the pagans do, to do more to meet material and practical needs than the pagans do, to go further than we are asked to go. Literally, to walk the extra mile. When your country needs you, don’t just serve your part. Serve more. Serve double. But whatever else you do, don’t do nothing.

Consider this analogy. “Consider the insurance agent who says to a person standing in a burning house, “Good news! Your policy covers fire. We’ll build you a whole new house!’ Okay. That is good news. But the most pressing news the person inside the house needs – right now – is where the door to the outside is.” The author, I think, presented this analogy as an argument for saving someone’s soul (getting them out of the building) as a priority rather than improving their future lot on earth (building a new house). But I found myself reading it the other way around: what kind of person focuses on someone’s future spiritual lot (a new house in the life to come) when they are choking to death now? Who ignores that suffering? Smoke inhalation causes disorientation and clouds one’s vision. If we really want to save people, we need to get them out of their physical distress first. This applies as much to poverty and hunger as it does to smoke inhalation.

Jesus took the same approach. He never asked someone to verbalise their faith in him before helping them. He knew full well that many people came to him only for physical healing or miracles or food (John 6:2,26). Jesus healed ten lepers, but only one came back to thank him (Luke 17:12-19). That man is told that his faith healed him – yet Jesus still healed the other nine. Nor does Jesus even need to always be asked for help: he brought a young man back to life without being asked to do so (Luke 7:11-17) and picked out a single man for healing from amongst the sick and disabled at the pool of Bethesda (John 5:1-9). Other times Jesus tells those he has healed to go and sin no more, but there is no implication that Jesus used any foreknowledge of whether they would receive him in faith as a deciding factor in whether to heal or not.


At Church Action on Poverty, we know that some churches are struggling to keep services open because their volunteers are themselves vulnerable and need to self-isolate. But many others are finding creative ways to serve and keep people connected.

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

Staying connected: 3 stories from Sheffield

Gathering on the Margins – 26 May

You Can’t Eat the View

How a few photos from 2008 still undermine attempts to tackle UK poverty

New wine, new wineskins part 3: What needs to change?

Gathering on the Margins, 19 May: Building back better?

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

8 April 2020

Thousands of people could be protected from food shortages during the coronavirus crisis, after the launch of a friendship project was fast-tracked

The Friends of Your Local Pantry scheme will raise cash from individuals and businesses, to ensure food provision for neighbours at risk of severe poverty.

The Your Local Pantry network has 14 member run food clubs around the UK, providing members with regular access to supermarket food at greatly reduced prices. The pantries pre-empt hunger and loosening the grip of poverty, freeing up more income for other costs and essential bills.

In March, the number of visits to the pantries passed 1,000 in a month for the first time, but the coronavirus crisis has threatened supply chains and organisers anticipate increased need over the coming months.

Today, the project is launching its Friends of Your Local Pantry scheme so that through one-off or monthly donations, supporters can prevent pantries from running low on staple foods, ensuring members can stay afloat in tough times.

The Your Local Pantry Team at Lighthouse in Middleton, in March 2019

Pantries offer fresh and chilled food, as well as frozen, long-life and tinned goods. Members can routinely choose what they put in their basket, typically being able to access around £20 of food for just £3 or £4 a week. Nationally, pantries have 1,400 members and provide for 3,600 adults and children, with pantries in Greater Manchester, London, the West Midlands, Cardiff, Preston, Stoke-on-Trent and Liverpool.

Church Action on Poverty runs the national network, following the success of a local scheme developed by Stockport Homes in 2014. Pantries source food from Fareshare and local suppliers, and members pay a weekly subscription, which allows them to access a set number of heavily-discounted items each week.

Gillian Oliver, pantry project worker at Church Action on Poverty, said: “The coronavirus crisis has caused sudden hardship and natural fear for people across the country. We know it will mean many more parents losing work, children potentially going hungry, and people worrying about food security. For that reason, we have brought forward the launch of our friendship scheme, so our supporters and the wider public can act now to prevent hunger.”

The Your Local Pantry team in Preston, in 2019

Pantries are a proven solution across the country, preventing thousands of people from being swept deeper into poverty. People have already been phoning us asking how they can donate, and the friends scheme allows us to respond to that compassion in the best way. Signing up could not be easier – all the details are at www.yourlocalpantry.co.uk/friend

Some pantries have already adapted since the coronavirus lockdown began. The pantry in Peckham has had to move to another room to enable safe distancing, but has also reduced its fee and the food it can provide, due to supply interruptions. The pantry in Smethwick had to relocate when the library where it was based closed.

Individuals and businesses are being asked to sign up to the friends scheme. They will be able to select a single pantry to receive 75% of their donation, with the rest used equally across the whole network, or they can donate to the central fund.

All donors will be acknowledged in Your Local Pantry communications or events, and the largest business supporters will be supported to include the work in their corporate social responsibility portfolio. Businesses pledging £50 a month of more can attend and contribute to the Your Local Pantry AGM and can request a talk to their business from the leader of their local project.

Notes to editors

Way Maker

Way Maker

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

Staying connected: 3 stories from Sheffield

Gathering on the Margins – 26 May

You Can’t Eat the View

How a few photos from 2008 still undermine attempts to tackle UK poverty

New wine, new wineskins part 3: What needs to change?

Gathering on the Margins, 19 May: Building back better?

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Church Action on Poverty in Sheffield Update, June 2020

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

You can’t eat the view

Church Action on Poverty trustee Stef Benstead shares reflections on how the Coronavirus outbreak is affecting her life, as someone with disabilities who is used to being on a low income. In the first post of the series, she talks about shopping.

As someone with chronic illness, the lockdown imposed on society makes relatively little difference to me socially. My life was already a moderate version of what we now have. 

Practically, the major impact for me is shopping. I used to buy online and arrange delivery for when my assistant would be in to put shopping away. Now I can’t do that. Because I use a mobility scooter, I was able to access one of the early morning supermarket slots recently, but I’m not usually up at that time. By the end of the shopping I was feeling really quite ill, and I still had to queue through the checkout, get home and put everything away. I went back to bed for several hours and still feel slightly ill three days later.

The shopping itself was a bizarre feeling: all the most important products had large empty spaces behind them on the shelves, and by the time I found the paracetamol and the soap there were no paracetamol-only tablets (I got some with caffeine, which I didn’t notice until I got home) and the only soap was handwash and three luxury bars. I’ve read that the issue isn’t stockpiling, but that people are buying more from supermarkets rather than cafes, restaurants etc; all the people doing as we’re told and going shopping less often are therefore buying more with each shop; and the just-in-time, money-saving approach of the capitalist supply chain simply can’t cope with a slight change in demand.

But the solution isn’t to turn to delivery services. 30% of individuals used online grocery shopping in 2019 but it made up less than 10% of grocery sales. Yet some 12 million people, or 20% of the country, are disabled, and right now everyone with limited mobility, high susceptibility, high risk of complications, current coronavirus symptoms or sole responsibility for young children needs 100% of their grocery shopping to be online. Care workers, both social care, social work and healthcare should also be getting deliveries to reduce their role in transmission, given their high exposure. Yet the only people to whom the government guarantees access are the 1.5 million extremely vulnerable. That’s well over 10 million people being utterly failed. 

But getting delivery slots to disabled people isn’t enough. Healthy people need to eat and wash too! If disabled people need to go shopping at 8am to get paracetamol and soap, how are the healthy people who are also struggling to get delivery slots manage? We won’t control the spread of the virus if healthy people can’t wash, and there will be excessive suffering if the most basic drug, paracetamol, isn’t available. Our healthy population is about to discover why getting paracetamol on prescription, rather than only 32 tablets at a time, can make such a difference – because the last thing you want to do (and right now should do!) is to go out to the chemist to get more paracetamol when you have a raging temperature and debilitating pain.

The just-in-time supply chain doesn’t work. We urgently need much more rapid transport of food, hygiene and health products around the country for everyone. Not just the 1.5 million extremely vulnerable, not just the 12 million disabled, not just the over-70s, but everyone. Because everyone needs food and healthcare.


Stef Benstead’s book Second Class Citizens: The treatment of disabled people in austerity Britain is available from the Centre for Welfare Reform.

You Can’t Eat the View

How a few photos from 2008 still undermine attempts to tackle UK poverty

New wine, new wineskins part 3: What needs to change?

Gathering on the Margins, 19 May: Building back better?

New wine, new wineskins part 2: What does our faith tell us?

Reflecting together, 14 May: Power and powerlessness

New wine, new wineskins part 1: Journeying into a new world

New wine, new wineskins: introduction

Gathering on the Margins – 12 May

Church on the Margins: resilience

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Weekly gatherings on Zoom at 2 pm every Tuesday

As we do our best to social distance or self-isolate, it is more important than ever that we stay connected with each other. That is why every Tuesday at 2 pm we will be having a digital get-together called Gathering on the Margins.


Join us on Zoom to connect with people across the country to hear each other’s stories, discuss issues that we are facing and share advice.

Around 25 people joined us for our pilot gathering last Tuesday (31 March), and we hope that more will be able to join in as the weeks go on.

In these gatherings we will share videos and interview those on the frontlines of this crisis and working to limit the impact on people in poverty. We will have smaller ‘breakout rooms’ to give you a chance to get to know other people individually and discuss in more detail how the crisis is affecting you and your area.

Last week we heard from people up and down the country about what is going on in their local areas. Penny updated us on the situation in Byker in Newcastle and also shared the recipes for what she had been baking to help provide for her neighbours while in isolation.

We also heard from Sydnie, of the York Food Justice Alliance, about the need to connect different local groups and networks to ensure that everyone in the community is provided for.

As well as hearing about what was happening in local areas, Anna Taylor told us about The Food Foundation’s research into levels of household food insecurity on a national level. You can see the data from that research here. She discussed the way this crisis is affecting at-risk and vulnerable people’s ability to access food, but also the need for the government to go beyond just thinking about those who are medically vulnerable and consider those who are economically vulnerable as well when it comes to emergency food provision.

Tomorrow we will be hearing from Kay Johnson at the Larder Lancashire in Preston about their holiday hunger scheme providing free online cooking lessons and ingredient packs for families.

Our Digital Poet in Residence, Matt Sowerby, will also be joining us. His poetry is really amazing and well worth listening to. You can hear his poem Breadlines here:

To join the Gathering just click the link below at 2 pm on Tuesday. I look forward to seeing lots of you then.

You Can’t Eat the View

How a few photos from 2008 still undermine attempts to tackle UK poverty

New wine, new wineskins part 3: What needs to change?

Gathering on the Margins, 19 May: Building back better?

New wine, new wineskins part 2: What does our faith tell us?

Reflecting together, 14 May: Power and powerlessness

New wine, new wineskins part 1: Journeying into a new world

New wine, new wineskins: introduction

Gathering on the Margins – 12 May

Church on the Margins: resilience

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

As an attempt to build up a rapid initial picture of the impact of the coronavirus crisis on organisations and individuals, we invited Church Action on Poverty members and supporters to complete an online survey on Friday 27 March. 

By 3 April, we had received…

0
responses from organisations
0
responses from individuals
in relation to the impact on them and their immediate family or household

Impacts on organisations

  • There is significant concern about the impact on the most vulnerable, including amongst people and communities who were already marginalised.  This includes people seeking asylum, refugees, migrants, people with poor access to healthcare, people working cash in hand in the informal economy, etc.
  • Isolated vulnerable older people are facing particular difficulties, including accessing basics – shopping, prescriptions, etc, and struggling to access online delivery slots.
  • A significant number of local churches and organisations have had to stop all existing activities and services, including food banks, community cafes, and night shelters.
  • There have been closures of a wide range of key local services, but other local churches and organisations are finding ways to refocus and continue to serve their local community.
  • Some are seeking to coordinate collaborative responses, whilst ensuring self-care for staff and beneficiaries.
  • There is a desire to try to stay positive, but aware of challenges ahead.

Impacts on individuals and families

  • It is evident from this very initial snapshot that the Coronavirus outbreak is deeply impacting the lives of people, families and wider social networks in many different ways.

  • What is particularly noticeable from the responses are the deep impacts on people who are already vulnerable, including disabled people, people with chronic health conditions older people and carers.

  • Some people are already reporting the impacts of loss of work or income, or of struggling to access or afford the basic essentials, including food and heating.

  • Key workers, clergy and others still working are in many cases under huge pressure, or having to adapt overnight to completely new challenges or working practices.

  • This is on top of wider social and psychological impacts of the loss of ‘ordinary life’ and social connection with friends, family, church and other social networks.

  • For some people, the impacts are particularly difficult or complex, as a result of a combination of caring, family or wider 

New wine, new wineskins: theological reflection on ‘building back better’

Gathering on the Margins – 2 June

Reflecting together, 28 May: Whom are we serving in our services?

You can’t eat the view

Reflecting together, 21 May: inhabiting the public realm in the midst of lockdown

Book review: Bread of Life in Broken Britain

1 city, 8 tales: sudden poverty & an outpouring of goodwill

Be in my Bubble

Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

Bernadette Askins, from our North East group, reports on what the Coronavirus outbreak has meant for the Key 2 Life Foodbank in South Tyneside

Things are changing very quickly from day to day and we have been struggling to keep up and adapt to this fast-moving scene.

Thankfully, our co-ordinator and 25 volunteers have risen to the occasion and everyone is working hard to make sure no-one is without food. We are expecting an increase in demand as people start to run out of money while waiting for the various benefits and grants to land.

An earlier photo of some volunteers at the Key 2 Life Foodbank

Need has more than doubled

Demand for food bags increased by 110% last week and we were anxious that we wouldn’t be able to meet demand. Food supplies from supermarkets are well down and of course we cannot appeal to the churches now. However, we do have an active Facebook page and an appeal was very successful – lots of food and money donations from the wider community.

We have had new funding to buy food from South Tyneside Council and several foundations have been in touch to invite applications for grants. Plus all the donations from the public which continue to be very generous (£1000 in past 2 weeks). So, no problems with money – just finding food to purchase!

At present, it is quite difficult to obtain food as supermarkets are rationing items but things seem to be easing a little. The cash and carrys were sold out of most stuff last weekend.  Hopefully when things calm down we will be able to buy food again. In the meantime, we have received food donations from local people, businesses which have had to close and small local shops.

Community has rallied round

Our older volunteers are now self-isolating but we have been able to recruit new volunteers (including our MP and a local councillor). Also volunteers from projects that have closed have joined us. Many of our volunteers live alone and working at Key 2 Life Foodbank is very important to them. They were quite distressed at the thought we might close.

Our foodbank manager, Jo, has health issues so is working from home and most of our trustees are self-isolating. However, we were delighted to be ‘loaned’ Pauline, who would normally be running the Methodist shop in the town centre, which has temporarily closed. Pauline is working three days a week at the Foodbank to make sure protocols are followed and managing the finances. A great example of cooperation and sharing of resources! It is a big relief because otherwise we had no senior person able to actually go to the foodbank to support the volunteers. 

6 practical ways we have adapted

These are some of the ways we have responded at Key 2 Life Foodbank to the Coronavirus:

  1. We introduced strict protocols to keep the volunteers safe.
  2. We are doing deliveries for people / families who have to isolate and who have no car, so they don’t have to use public transport. Key (one of our Churches Together charities) has loaned us their van and we have several volunteer drivers.
  3. From next week we will be distributing Family Food Packs with 5 days food. These are intended for children entitled to free school meals, but we will also distribute them to families who are in financial difficulties. Families can self-refer.
  4. We have upped our game on social media with lots of good stories and suggestions of ways the community can get involved.
  5. We have put a donate button on our Facebook page.
  6. We have provided foodbank vols with a letter explaining their role, just in case they are questioned on the way to work

South Tyneside Council has set up a Hub which began operating this week. People who have no money can phone and they will be referred to the Foodbank

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Gathering on the Margins – 16 June

In February Ben Pearson, our Food Power Empowerment Officer, along with Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, facilitated a workshop on food justice and food security, exploring the need for global solidarity with a group of individuals with lived experience of food poverty on the Byker estate in Newcastle. Here are Ben's reflections on the process.

The Global Solidarity Alliance for Food Justice and Food Security was formed last September with colleagues from the United States and Canada, when both Ben and Kayleigh, along with Heather and Penny from Byker, attended the Closing the Hunger Gap Conference in North Carolina, USA.

The alliance is working on A Manifesto for Food Justice and Food Security. Key to this is that those experiencing and at risk of food insecurity take a lead in determining and shaping the public policies and strategies used to improve these situations, embracing people with lived experience as core members of campaigns and organisations.

It’s evident, perhaps now more so than ever, that many of the issues those in poverty face are very similar whether in the UK, United States, Canada or beyond. It’s therefore important to ensure the voices of those with lived experience are listened to and heard, and that the manifesto relates and engages those at the grassroots along with academics and those working in the sector.

A lively discussion was had, covering a range of topics from human rights to race, capitalism to climate. One message that was loud and clear from the group was that:

If welfare was paid to an acceptable level for people to live we wouldn’t have food insecurity.

That means:

Enough money so you don’t have to attend handouts for food and clothing, having a choice where to buy food, and an adequate education system to enable people to learn how to cook.

Food charity was seen to be neither dignified nor a long-term solution:

Money needs to be shared more equally.

They talked about “do-gooders” and the need to “feel grateful” often causing feelings of both anger and embarrassment:

They make you feel like you’re worthless.

One participant talked about how “people who have got don’t give a screw”, with persistent inequality lying at the root of persistent food insecurity. As we know in the current crisis, people are uncertain over the future and even more will become food insecure. This is perhaps an opportunity or ‘canny idea’ for many more of us to come together in solidarity, building a movement to tackle the underlying causes of poverty.

Penny Walters, a workshop participant and active campaigner with lived experience of poverty, says:

Bringing people together from different backgrounds to do workshops and have discussions brings a broader view, and could bring about a wider range of solutions.

Ben and Kayleigh hope to continue the conversation with grassroots activists and those with lived experience of poverty over the coming months, and will explore ways in which those with lived experience can get involved online. If you would like any more information regarding the Global Solidarity Alliance for Food Justice & Food Security, please contact Ben. 

Food Power Empowerment Programme Officer

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Gathering on the Margins – 16 June