The thousands of people receiving food bank parcels every year are just the most visible aspect of food poverty locally, say Councillors calling for the creation of a Food Poverty Action Plan for B&NES.
Councillors agreed to work with local organisations, bringing together expertise and experience through the Policy Development process, to come up with robust and effective guidance for the Council’s actions.
Councillor Ruth Malloy (Weston ward), who proposed the motion to Council, said:
“This is an incredibly complex issue with many causes, but we cannot ignore that food poverty is on the increase and we must ask ‘why’ and ‘what should the Council do to help? ’
“If we think of food poverty, we’re likely to think of a family struggling with financial hardship, due to rising living costs and welfare changes, having to turn to a food bank to tide them over.
“However, there’s a wider picture, taking in people who live in food deserts, where they can’t access healthy and affordable food, those who lack cooking skills, and families affected by ‘holiday hunger’ when there are no free school meals outside term time.
“We are fortunate in B&NES to have so many local organisations involved in local food systems and supporting people in crisis. We need to learn from their invaluable work and take their advice to see where the Council can usefully contribute and add value.”
B&NES Council adopted a motion requesting a policy development investigation to come up with recommendations. An amendment, which sought to direct the policy development process, was not agreed by Council.
Councillor Rob Appleyard (Lambridge ward), Lib Dem Cabinet member for Adult Services and Health, commented:
“We’re calling for a Food Poverty Action Plan to be developed with local organisations and experts. Labour want to pre-empt this thoughtful process. Their hearts are in the right place but we shouldn’t be making policy on the hoof.
“I’m glad to agree to working towards a refresh of the Local Food Strategy; this will give us the chance to refocus on some of the key issues around food poverty, local food systems and education.”
A spokesperson for Bath and North East Somerset Liberal Democrats added:
"Food poverty is increasing across the country, affecting 8.4 million people in the UK today and putting increasing strain on food banks, churches and other charitable organisations. The Conservative government has failed to mitigate this tragedy.
“Instead of financing smart solutions to address the complex causes of food poverty, Boris Johnson’s government is putting £2 billion into no deal Brexit preparations. That money could be better spent ensuring that vulnerable families have access to healthy and affordable food.
“Worse still, the disastrous implementation of universal credit by the Conservative government is exacerbating the problem for those families most at risk of falling into food poverty. Therefore, it’s only right that the Lib Dems are taking immediate action to see how locally, B&NES Council can reduce food insecurity.”
This action will build on the motion that Lib Dem councillors introduced back in March, while in opposition. The motion called for the government to work with schools, academies and local authorities to raise awareness of families’ eligibility for Free School Meals.
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