New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

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

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

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

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

You can help out today...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea.

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

Gathering on the Margins

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.

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

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 people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

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 

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

Talking global solidarity in Byker

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

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

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

Reporting poverty well: another step forward

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

You can help out today...

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit, sed do eiusmod tempor incididunt ut labore et dolore magna aliqua. Ut enim ad minim veniam, quis nostrud exercitation ullamco laboris nisi ut aliquip ex ea.

New pantry friendship scheme to avert food shortages for thousands

Gathering on the Margins

How people are responding to the Coronavirus outbreak

How 5 of our partners are maintaining community from a distance

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coronavirus food alert: Support our calls for Government action

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

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