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A still from a hand-drawn video, showing people crossing a bridge, holding a banner that says "Tackling root causes of poverty"

Five new trustees have joined the council of management of Church Action on Poverty, bringing fresh skills, insights, ideas and dedication to the organisation.

A still from a hand-drawn video, showing people crossing a bridge, holding a banner that says "Tackling root causes of poverty"

All five were elected at our recent 2023 AGM. This blog gives you a quick introduction, and outlines their and other trustees’ role.

The new trustees are:

Rich Jones from Greater Manchester

Rich is a multi-award winning social entrepreneur who brings with him 20 years of extensive experience in the voluntary, community, faith and social enterprise sector.

Rich has experience on the frontline, in leadership and in infrastructure consultancy within the charity sector.

Revd Amanda Mallen from Walsall

Amanda says: “I am from an impoverished background and have personal experience of financial poverty, and the emotional and mental poverty that goes along with it.

“I want to make a difference and try to do so in my own small way, engaging on a wider scale can only be a good thing. I feel I have come a long way and have something to say and something to offer those who are journeying through too.”

Ashleigh May from Halifax and Barking & Dagenham

Ashleigh says: “I have lived experience of poverty, and am very passionate to challenge all forms of oppression. I have over nine years of campaigning experience. I help to amplify the voices of the Black and Minority Ethnicity communities.”

Ashleigh lived in Barking & Dagenham but was relocated to Halifax, as the local council had been unable to rehouse her.

She co-runs an organisation called Mums On A Mission, which supports families and helps to strengthen community action, working in East London and West Yorkshire.

Ashleigh is part of Church Action on Poverty’s Speaking Truth To Power programme and recently told her story more fully here.

Martin Stringer from Kidderminster

Martin says: “Having undertaken five years of church-related community work in Manchester in  the 1990s, I spent over thirty years in highereducation, including leadership roles in the University of Birmingham and Swansea University. I have continued to research and work in inner-urban areas and am currently a consultant in higher education.”

Tracy Porter from Stoke

Tracy says: “I’ve known poverty for most of my life, in many of its ever changing forms, and the obstacles and barriers that poverty creates. 

“As I and my children got older, I started to look at what I could do to change how and why things are done. I signed so many petitions that were just rejected and had no effect whatsoever, few actually made any difference, and the difference was very small!  

“I had all but given up, when I found Expert Citizens, whom connected me with; The APLE Collective, Thrive Teesside, Church Action on Poverty, Christians Against Poverty, and All The Small Things. 

“The work I have been doing with these organisations have all been on variations of the same theme, as they have all been about different aspects of poverty. 

“I have also worked with various universities around the same themes, and at present am, working with Cardiff University’s Policy Team with The APLE Collective, we have been developing a workshop to gather data about reducing stigma. We have also organised and been invited to All-Party Parliamentary Groups, and we have been a part of research for health inequalities in data with The Ada Lovelace Foundation as peer researchers.”

Tracy is also part of the Speaking Truth To Power programme, and says: “It has been great to be involved with so many like minded, passionate and driven people, and I believe that together we can make meaningful change that will have a huge positive impact.”

What our trustees do

Church Action on Poverty’s trustees sit on the council of management, to oversee the governance of the charity. 

The council and management have worked over recent years to increase the number of trustees who have first-hand insights of UK poverty, and almost half of our trustees now do.

All of our work is rooted in the knowledge that no social issue can be fixed without the leadership and wisdom of people with direct experience of it. Our politics, media, business sectors and charity sectors would all be more informed and more effective if they were more accessible for people of all incomes and backgrounds, and Church Action on Poverty is pleased to be making progress in this way.

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Penny Walters outside Byker Community Association

Compassionate community campaigner, Penny Walters, has been awarded the British Empire Medal in the New Year Honours list.

The award is in recognition of her tireless and unstinting work in Byker in Newcastle, particularly during the pandemic.

Penny is a caring and inspiring social justice activist, who Church Action on Poverty has been privileged to work alongside in recent years. We’re delighted to congratulate her on the recognition she has received.

Congratulations Penny!

Niall Cooper, chief executive of Church Action on Poverty, said: “Penny’s commitment, tenacity and sincere desire to help improve society with her community is incredible to witness. She has supported so many people in recent years, and courageously spoken up locally and nationally to bring about a more just society. Congratulations Penny!”

Penny Walters outside Byker Community Association
Penny Walters outside Byker Community Association in 2021. Photo by Madeleine Penfold.

Penny: I've done a lot - and always for Byker

Penny was actively involved in the End Hunger UK campaign, the Food Power project, research into food experiences during the pandemic, and is now a member of the Speaking Truth To Power programme. In recent years, she has spoken in Parliament, on Channel 4 News, and in local and international media.

She says: “All the work I have done has always had Byker in mind. Even when I started doing Food Power and End Hunger UK, it was always with Byker in my mind.

“When this letter came through, I just looked at it and couldn’t believe it.”

Penny, Cath and Heather are interviewed for Channel 4 News.
Penny, her daughter Heather, and friend Cath, being interviewed for Channel 4 News in 2018

Penny: a community cuppa is better than fancy food

“All of the stuff I have done about food and poverty has always been voluntary. Every time I spoke out, or did a video or anything, it has been voluntary, time given free. People say thank you, of course, but this is really big, the icing on the cake.

“I am from County Durham and moved to Byker in 2017. I had got a job working in Byker in the church café, and then moved into Byker as well to be in the community.

“Feeding and eating with people who have very little is so much better than any fancy restaurant. You find that people are more open with you and more willing to talk to you and to talk about their problems and sort them out.

“We had a couple of real success stories, with people going on to get extra qualifications or overcome problems.

“One guy used to come in for a cup of tea and a natter, and he says it gave him his self worth back. He was able to get off his medication, and went back to doing his hobbies, all just from someone taking a little time to say ‘how are you doing? Have a cup of tea!’.

Penny Walters at Byker Community Association
Penny Walters prepares hot drinks in the kitchen of Byker Community Association in 2021. Photo by Madeleine Penfold.

Penny: Byker is a place of friendship and support

“The café had closed before covid, but we used the kitchen there to make meals during the pandemic. I was doing up to 50 meals a time, twice a week, and they’d go out in the mutual aid groups. It was something in the community, for the community.

“When Food Power started, that fitted in really nicely with all the other stuff I was doing in Byker. It showed that when you’re trying to change things, it’s not always a case of hitting your head against a brick wall. You have little steps forward and back as well, and we showed people what is achievable.

“Byker is classed as one of the deprived areas, but it is only really deprived of money. It is not deprived of friendship or people or community. It’s just deprived of money. People talk about Byker without having lived here, so they do not know it. 

“Byker is a place of friendship and support that is there if you need it. That is a really big thing – people who can help if you don’t know what to do, or suggest who to talk to.

“It does not matter to me who I work with; I’m working for the good of everybody. I don’t say I’ll only work with these people or those people. I will work with anybody if it is helpful.

“Charities and organisations need to remember to listen more, and remember that it doesn’t work to have tokenistic poor people. Listen and work with us. I’m very pleased to have been supported so well, whoever I have worked with.”

Penny says she hopes the recognition might help her dismantle some of the barriers that exist, and help her find fulfilling work again.

She says: “I would love to travel up and down the country with pans and stoves and go to community centres or schools that have facilities, and work with people to show what you can do with practically nothing. It would be about how to get the best out of food, how to grow things, how to cook, and it would be together with people.”

 

Penny Walters outside Byker Community Association

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A shopper holding a basket beside a volunteer, in front of full shelves at Hope Pantry in Merthyr Tydfil.

Your Local Pantry, Feeding Britain and others are working together to prevent hunger, offer dignity and choice, and co-design a national exit strategy from dependence on foodbanks

The past few years have presented a great many challenges for the country, felt perhaps most keenly by people on low incomes.

We know that all too many households are struggling to afford even the basic costs of living. We hear from parents who are skipping meals to feed their children; from people who are needing to seek support for the first time in their lives; from pensioners who are making the choice between heating and eating; and from people working multiple jobs, who are still unable to make ends meet. 

But across the country, people are coming together around food and with a shared determination to help make change happen.

Communities, friends and neighbours are sharing their resolve and ideas – and across the voluntary and community sector new partnerships are being forged and innovative models of food support are being introduced. 

A toddler in a pushchair holds a box of rice, at a Your Local Pantry

Pantries: a sense of belonging

Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry are working to develop Pantries which provide members with access to nutritious food, in a dignified setting, with wraparound support on site.

In return for a few pounds each visit, Pantry members can fill their baskets with a broad range of fresh, chilled or frozen, longlife, and household goods, often valued at around £25. Members save £21 per visit on average, and this helps them to stretch their budgets further, and keep their heads above water from week to week.

But Pantries are about so much more than financial savings. Pantries also help members to build dignity, economic independence and choice, and prevent people from needing to rely on crisis food parcels.

They also strengthen people’s sense of belonging and being connected to their community, and have been shown to improve physical and mental health, and food variety. Wraparound support services address additional issues that people are facing, to help them back on their feet long-term.

A member reaches for a bag of salad at Hope Pantry in Merthyr Tydfil

Pantries: places of community

Both Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry are seeing the impact of these projects. As one member said: “This place helps so much, it just takes that little bit of pressure off. I don’t think I would be coping very well without it. It feels more like a community shop than a foodbank, that takes pressure off too – it makes it easier to walk through the door.” 

In Merthyr Tydfil – an area where 10% of adults have gone hungry, and 28% have struggled to access food – Your Local Pantry and Feeding Britain are working together to support the Hope Pantry, which is part of the Your Local Pantry Network. This Pantry is open two days per week, and members pay £3.50 per visit. Support from Feeding Britain has enabled Hope Pantry to secure a reliable, local, high quality supply of fruit and vegetables to serve their 224 Pantry members, as well as to pilot a similar arrangement for meat – adding to the sense of being a food co-operative which combines members’ collective purchasing power to improve their access to low-cost but good food.

So much more than just food

Heidi, the Hope Pantry Manager told us: “Hope Pantry is much more than just food, it’s grown into a community, where members have made friends, look out for each other, share life together. The impact on the well-being of our members is financial, physical & emotional. 

Partnering with both YLP and Feeding Britain has added value to our pantry. We have good working relationships with a number of local businesses, having been able to trial weekly purchasing of fruit & veg, as well as more recently fresh butcher meat. This is important to us, to keep money in the local economy, and provide healthy nutritious food. Both have resulted in longer term weekly arrangements with the suppliers.”

The greengrocer that supplies Hope Pantry with produce says: “I didn’t know such a provision existed, it’s good to be able to help with fresh seasonal fruit & vegetables. Knowing we have a regular order with the pantry is very helpful to us as a small business.”

Dignity, choice and hope

Feeding Britain and Your Local Pantry feel that projects like the Hope Pantry could play a crucial role in a future shaped by dignity, hope and choice; and help to prevent another decade of lengthening queues for, and growing dependency upon, emergency food parcels.

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Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded

Stoke voices: We want opportunity and hope

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Sheffield Civic Breakfast: leaders told about mounting pressures of poverty

A church with people at the margins

Weed it and reap: why so many Pantries are adding gardens

Three photos of Epsom and Epsom Pantry, with the Neighbourhood Voices logo

Epsom voices: It’s a lovely place – but many feel excluded