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How we're fighting food injustice

A triple-whammy of inflation, wage stagnation and real-terms cuts to benefits is causing people to experience food injustice – meaning that they don’t have reliable access to enough affordable, nutritious and healthy food. In this blog, Councillor Juliet Campbell, Cabinet Member for Communities, Refugees and Wellbeing, explains how we’re working with partners across the borough to tackle this head-on.

Nearly a quarter of the way through the 21st Century, it seems scarcely believable that many families in the UK are struggling to put food on the table.

A seemingly relentless increase in the cost of living has resulted in more and more people facing a struggle to afford food and fuel. For some, it’s an unimaginably difficult choice between eating and heating.

Fortunately, we are lucky to have some truly fantastic voluntary organisations in our borough who have gone the extra mile to put food on people’s plates during difficult times. However, they too are feeling the pinch, squeezed ever more tightly by rising running costs, reduced donations and soaring demand. 

This isn’t acceptable. While acknowledging that there are national factors that are outside our direct control, we have an opportunity to mount a local response that can make a real difference. That’s why, together with community and voluntary organisations and other partners across the borough, we’re doing what we can to ensure that fewer people experience food injustice.

We’re doing this in a number of ways:

A plan to combat food injustice

Together with Lewisham Local and a diverse range of partner organisations across the borough, we’re implementing a new Food Justice Action Plan. The new plan sets out a number of short, medium and long-term actions to tackle food injustice.

Recognising that food injustice has many complex causes that are beyond any single organisation to address, we’ve put collaborative working at the heart of the plan, enabling different organisations to pool their expertise and their capabilities in the most effective way. From connecting market and other traders with organisations that can redistribute surplus stock to developing an ‘Appliance Repair or Replacement’ service for residents who can’t afford to replace kitchen appliances, we’re trying to co-ordinate activities and identify opportunities for collaboration that makes a real difference.

While the plan recognises the vital importance of emergency food responses such as food banks, it will also help drive more sustainable change and opportunities to address food injustice in a longer-term way. For example, we will map existing food growing spaces and look at suitable, unused public spaces that could be utilised for food growing, and we’ll work with partners to ensure courses are available to teach people energy efficient cooking skills and provide opportunities to eat and share food with their families and communities.

We’ve only recently launched our Food Justice Action Plan and are on a journey to implement it. If you’d like to be involved, think you can help, or would just like to know more, please email FoodjusticeActionPlan@lewisham.gov.uk.

Direct financial support for food giving projects

We’ve teamed up with Lewisham Local to establish the Food Justice Community Grants Fund. The council has provided £100,000 for the fund which will support projects and organisations across the borough that either provide emergency food, such as food banks, or help improve access to nutritious and healthy foods. Following the first round of applications in the spring, we’ll announce the first recipients of our Food Justice Community Grants in the coming weeks. Watch this space!

Expanding funding for free school meals

No child in our borough should go hungry. That’s why we announced earlier this year that we were allocating an additional £400,000 to schools to enable them to go further in feeding children and tackling hunger. Free school meal vouchers will continue to be funded during school holidays, and this additional money can be used in a variety of other ways including support such as free breakfasts; provision of break-time snacks; top-ups to packed lunches, food parcels and meals for children not currently eligible for free school meals.

Addressing food injustice caused by often complex and national factors outside our direct control will be a difficult challenge. Fortunately we are able to build on a strong foundation, with so much excellent work already happening across our borough. With new energy, focus and direction we are confident that we can take real and meaningful steps towards eliminating hunger and supporting our most vulnerable residents.

Read our Food Justice Action Plan here. 

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