A note from ‘Food Poverty: Changing the Story’ at Edge Hill University

‘If you are not confused, you aren’t thinking.’

– Albert Einstein

Is there any more confusing topic within the social need space other than food poverty and should that necessarily be the case? Hungry people require food and surely that food should be good in quality and choice, otherwise where is the dignity, where is the care?

At Edge Hill University last week over 90 different organisations signed up to discuss, debate, agree, disagree, look for new routes to establish a better way to feed people who are hungry.

Professor Martin Caraher spoke of how 8 out of 10 hungry people do not attend food banks, of a food aid purpose that must be predicated on dignity and how food banks do not fit that purpose. Rose Oglesby laid out a call for direct action. Gerard Woodhouse determined that on average people were visiting his food bank for up to 7 visits. Susannah Brook spoke about their ASDA grant being used to strengthen the service offer into their food banks and Robbie Davison presented the case for meals not food and an education of the donor.

Here are a few slides from the presentations to capture the day:

Of course, a great deal more was said and done with plenty of questions from the floor to tease out further snippets of information from each of the speakers. It was a day well timed for the place the food poverty movement is in right now and it was clear from those present, the movement is continuing to grow and become that much more mixed up. More food banks are planned, local authorities are creating food poverty models and then there is the wider charity approaches all well intended as part of a diverse cocktail of food aid options.

This type of conference is only really useful if something really useful comes out the other end and we will have to wait and see what is achieved as we all work through the next few months.

Already, Rose Oglesby is directing her efforts to see if the direct action she described as useful is something that can be co-ordinated via the wider food poverty network. From the reaction on the day most felt her call for action had potential. We wish her well and intend to work with her to push for a successful outcome.

Whilst we wait for a change of Government and the sort of policy change that puts enough money into people’s pockets, our hope is that those who attended found something new that will make sure there is a positive change to the food that people have to eat. Because at this point in time, anything short of that will quite frankly be a dereliction of duty by those in the food aid movement.

Trussell Trust (and Fareshare) now have a massive responsibility to those who are hungry and with their ASDA grant now have the means to change the direction of food aid and food poverty in any way they see fit. The next few months will see whether they reach out to others to improve the food supply and incorporate with those other ideas that set out to feed people well. From Susannah’s presentation it was unclear that there were any plans to reach out beyond their current Fareshare arrangement – time will tell?

A final thought taken from one of our slides on the day…

PEOPLE LIKE US CREATED EVERYTHING THE FOOD AID SYSTEM IS NOW. IF WE WANT TO CREATE A GOOD FOOD SYSTEM, PEOPLE LIKE US HERE CAN DO IT. IF IT DOES NOT HAPPEN, IT MEANS PEOPLE LIKE US DID NOT WANT IT – IT’S THAT SIMPLE.

Let’s hope that enough of us want it.