Food poverty a growing issue across the borough

The real impact of food poverty and insecurity across the borough has been revealed following a wide-ranging analysis by the Council's Overview and Scrutiny Committee.

Working with local experts, the study found that food poverty exists in both urban and rural settings and is influenced by a number of factors, including changes to the benefits system and the rising cost of housing. It also found that more and more working families are being affected by food poverty, often facing a stark choice between paying bills and buying food for their children. Figures show that 14.6% of the borough's children live in poverty and in three neighbourhoods in the borough this figure rises to a third of all children.

Cllr Angela Goodwin, Lead Cllr for Housing (social and affordable), Homelessness, Access and Disability and Chair of the Overview and Scrutiny Committee task and finish group which examined this issue says: "It may shock some people that in such a seemingly-affluent borough food poverty is a real issue but our findings show it affects residents across the borough, in both urban and rural areas. To hear that some parents are going without meals so that their children can eat and that for some children their school lunch is their only meal of the day is startling. Food poverty has economic, social, and health impacts and we need to work closely with our partners to help tackle the root cause of food poverty and insecurity in the borough."

Among the Committee's recommendations are:

  • that the Council formally recognises food poverty and insecurity as issues that need priority action

  • creating a formal food access plan that identifies barriers to accessing affordable and nutritious food and actions to tackle these

  • encouraging the creation of a community store or social supermarket

  • raising awareness of the current food aid provision available to residents

  • review the criteria for the Council's Local council Tax Support Fund and the Mayor's Local Distress Fund.

Cllr Caroline Reeves, Leader of the Council, adds: "Food poverty and insecurity is a serious and perhaps hidden issue in our borough which we must address to ensure our residents have access to help and support when they need it most. We will be asking Full Council in July to agree a number of measures, including developing a food poverty strategy and action plan with key partners."

The report will now be considered by the full Council on 23 July. A copy of the report can be read online at Public Overview and Scrutiny Committee report (agenda item 4).

Published on Wednesday 5 June.