FoodFutures: North Lancashire’s Sustainable Food Partnership has joined a call on Government to recognise and support local food partnerships’ work to tackle the ongoing food crisis created by Covid 19
FoodFutures is part of a network of 60 Sustainable Food Place (SFP) partnerships that are working to tackle food poverty and inequalities, whilst creating a more healthy and resilient food system for all.
Local food partnerships are playing a pivotal role in driving and coordinating effective community food responses to the coronavirus pandemic. They are working alongside local authorities, local resilience forums and grassroots community food initiatives to tackle short and long term food needs.
Over the last few months they have effectively identified very large numbers of people not formally recognised as clinically vulnerable – including those on low incomes, children eligible for free school meals and those needing to self-isolate due to older age or medical risks – and provided them with food, including freshly prepared meals. It is vital that the Government recognises and supports their ongoing efforts as communities rebuild after the crisis.
Lancaster District’s response has been incredible.
The Morecambe Bay Foundation set up an Urgent Response Fund to provide financial support to community organisations across Lancaster District that are working to mitigate the impact of the coronavirus outbreak.
Lancaster District Food Poverty Alliance has hosted at least fortnightly meetings to support the coordination of scaled up operations. Examples include Morecambe Bay Food Bank teaming up with Lancaster City Council to distribute more than 700 food parcels a week.
Similarly, the Olive Branch and other local food banks and food clubs have adapted their operations to meet the increased need for emergency food support.
EggCup, Lancaster’s surplus food distribution hub, has been providing food to almost 200 households on a weekly basis, with food bags being made up of surplus food with some additional being bought in. The catering teams at Lancaster & Morecambe College have also prepared meals for EggCup to distribute.
The FoodFutures partnership has also not lost site of the need to build back better. It has continued to build a collaborative platform from which a holistic food strategy is being developed and implemented with the aim of building our local food systems resilience. It has started the set up of Lancaster’s first FarmStart site, has launched a FoodFriends scheme, is planning the UK’s first Northern Real Farming Conference and is scoping the need for an online local food market and more collaborative school work around food.
An open letter addressed to Robert Jenrick, the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government, on behalf of the Sustainable Food Places Network is supported by over 30 leading national organisations. These include the Food Foundation, Fareshare, the Royal Society for Public Health, the Food Farming and Countryside Commission, N8 AgriFood and the London Food Board, as well as Councillors, Directors of Public Health and academics and experts including Professor Tim Lang and Jeanette Orrey MBE.
The letter asks the Secretary of State to urge all Local Authorities, Local Resilience Forums and Local Enterprise Partnerships to work closely with local food partnerships where they exist and to push for their establishment where they do not. It also asks the Secretary of State to provide centralised or devolved funding to support the work of these partnerships, so that this responsibility does not fall entirely on local authorities and public and third sector organisations which are already under financial strain.
This call on Government comes at a critical moment in the UK’s response to Covid 19. As the lockdown is eased, government-funded food parcels for vulnerable households will eventually stop, leaving households that are financially hit by the crisis and those already vulnerable and in desperate need of effective emergency food provision and wider support.
Anna Clayton, coordinator of FoodFutures commented: “Covid-19 has highlighted the vulnerabilities of our globalized food system and our societies ingrained social inequalities. We are presented with an opportunity to reflect on this experience and put in place the support needed to create more resilient and fair food systems. Local food partnerships play a key role in cultivating the collaborative food cultures needed to join up sustainable food work and deal with future shocks.”