Annette James, the Liverpool Representative for Food Power and a trustee for Liverpool Food People and Micah Liverpool reflects on food insecurity across Liverpool. Annette outlines the current situation, highlighting how organisations across Merseyside are working together then offers six ways we can respond to food insecurity.

Annette James, the Liverpool Representative for Food Power and a trustee for Liverpool Food People and Micah Liverpool reflects on food insecurity across Liverpool .

Food insecurity: the current situation

‘Holiday Hunger’ affects children and their families across the country, it is not a new phenomenon but it has been brought into sharp relief because of the rising levels of children at risk of children going without food during school holidays.

Research into food insecurity highlights the severity of the current situation: The Hungry for Change report reflected that “people on low incomes in the UK are facing a ‘new’ struggle to acquire sufficient quantity and adequate quality of food. People are often caught between rising food prices, household bills and housing costs on one side and stagnant incomes on the other. Something has to give for these families and often the one flexible resource is spending is food.” The Getting By report, commissioned by Liverpool Council’s Action Group on Poverty and published in March 2015, included evidence from 30 families with at least one parent in low paid employment. Researchers tracked the families’ progress for a year and concluded that the families remained below the 2014 Minimum Income Standard, which was deemed to be the level necessary to have an acceptable basic standard of living.

For many people food insecurity is linked to the public welfare system and welfare reform and is a present reality for families and individuals on low income. The roll out of Universal Credit across the city is beginning to impact both the possibility of securing regular healthy food for families, and the mental and emotional well-being of women, men and children. As the roll out continues, more issues are being highlighted.

Working together

Liverpool Food Inequalities group led by the city council, aims to reduce the number of people who depend on Food aid because they suffer acute food crisis and have few resources to sustain healthy eating, which would optimise their ‘health status’. Food insecurity is a complex issue, and there are no easy answers. It is essential to listen and learn from the stories of those who are most vulnerable and those who provide practical support.

A number of networks work alongside each other, organisations such as ‘Liverpool Play Partnership’, ‘Liverpool Food People’, ‘Feeding Liverpool’, ‘Citizens Advice Services’, ‘Liverpool Law Society’, housing associations, ‘Liverpool Micah’, ‘Foodcycle’, ‘Refugee action’ and ‘Asylum Link’. There are many, many small local initiatives in communities across the city.

This is a national issue. Across the North West region, a growing number of food aid projects are offering initiatives that go way beyond the food bank. People are beginning to act together – to share knowledge and expertise – to pool resources and to support one another to ensure individuals and families are fed on a daily basis.

Food Power is a lottery funded initiative led by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty. Food Power aims to provide support for local alliances to develop their work, to develop a platform for people experiencing food poverty, and to evaluate and share what works well. The programme has resources for four main work streams: Supporting local food poverty alliances: Learning and sharing good practiceInvolving experts by experience and evidencing what works at the local level.

How can we respond?

  • Give of your time and resources, for example: give to the food bank, give of your time and expertise.
  • Seek to understand the situation in which too many people find themselves.
  • Listen carefully: evidence tells us that people who find themselves in food insecurity, not having enough food for children and the family do not easily seek food aid, they will try everything else first so when they do access aid they are deeply troubled
  • Find out what groups are active in your area, support and work with people, alongside local councillors, groups and agencies, through and beyond existing structures
  • There are many examples of community shops and community markets springing up, encourage local people to buy local to maximise the pound in their pocket.
  • If you feel appropriate, contact your local MP about stopping the roll out of Universal Credit