A strategy for food poverty

In Newham, as across the UK, there are residents struggling to afford enough food to live a healthy and happy life. 

Poverty is the primary cause of food insecurity, and during the COVID-19 pandemic many residents have been hit hard in health and economic terms, with a disproportionate impact on ethnic minority communities in our borough.  

The scale of our challenge remains huge, particularly the struggle to put food on the table: half of our children are living in poverty and 32 per cent suffer from food insecurity.

In January 2021 – Newham’s Year of the Young Person – Mayor Rokhsana Fiaz established the Young People and Food Security Task and Finish Group, as part of a series of interventions and actions to address poverty and inequality in the borough.

I was appointed chair of this group, which included elected members, council officers, and representatives of schools and the voluntary, community and faith sectors. 

We devised our new Young People and Food Security Strategy, agreed at a cabinet meeting in July, which outlines how we will take a ‘whole system’ approach to improving food security. 

Measures include encouraging healthy food retailers to open in food deserts, piloting healthy eating projects in secondary schools, introducing borough-wide food clubs, and a new digital food map on the council’s website showing locally available food support services.

We have also mapped out all the excellent work that is happening across Newham – including continuing to provide free school meals to all primary school pupils, improving referral pathways for residents in need, and advice and emergency assistance from Our Newham Money service.

But this isn’t the end; many of these programmes will evolve with the changing needs of residents as we come out of the pandemic, and there will be gaps where we need new programmes. 

So, updates will be reported into the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board every six months, to ensure we continue to improve food security across Newham.

Author

For more information, please visit www.newham.gov.uk/news

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