The Mayor of Greater Manchester has today launched a new Food Security Action Network to help the city-region tackle food poverty.
It will provide leadership on delivering key mayoral commitments on food insecurity and identify opportunities for action with an initial focus on ensuring that no child should go hungry.
The Food Security Action Network will be a grassroots, community led, partnership to drive action to help end food poverty and holiday hunger in Greater Manchester. The Network will work in partnership across Greater Manchester to make progress on this issue in the city-region. Creating sustainable change will require national leadership and policy changes and Greater Manchester will continue to call for more action to tackle these issues.
Longer term ambitions include working towards developing sustainable food provision whilst tackling the root causes of poverty to enable action to build a strong food network across Greater Manchester.
The Food Security Action Network builds on what the Mayor, Greater Manchester Combined Authority (GMCA) and partners have learnt from the work of the Homelessness Action Network in reducing homelessness and rough sleeping in Greater Manchester.
The Homelessness Action Network has shown that a collective approach can create positive change in the city-region and the Food Security Action Network will help to create a strong, cross-society campaign to tackle food poverty and holiday hunger as a long-term issue.
The No Child Should Go Hungry campaign, which the Mayor launched last year, will focus on ending holiday hunger, increasing the uptake of NHS Healthy Start Vouchers in Greater Manchester and supporting families that fall outside the government’s eligibility criteria for support.
Data from the most recent published school census indicates that over 120,000 school pupils, 26% of all pupils in Greater Manchester schools, were eligible for free school meals. As October half term approaches there have been a number of national changes that risk increasing food poverty and causing more children to go hungry over the school holidays.
The removal of the Universal Credit £20 uplift has impacted on over 176,320 families with children in Greater Manchester. Household budgets are also coming under further strain due to the end of the furlough scheme and eviction ban, the Energy Price Cap increase and rising energy prices and the impending rise in National Insurance Contributions in April 2022.
There are a significant number of children and families who are not entitled to free school meals but are suffering from financial hardship. Poverty is a growing problem in the city-region with some of the UK’s most deprived neighbourhoods and 620,000 residents living in poverty.
Mayor of Greater Manchester Andy Burnham said: “Establishing a new Food Security Action Network is an important step in driving action to tackle food poverty and end holiday hunger in Greater Manchester.
“We have learnt from our successful work to reduce homelessness in the city-region that collective action can make a real, tangible difference to people’s lives. We will take our experience from the Homelessness Action Network and use it to help empower the Food Security Action Network to deliver for the residents of Greater Manchester.
“We have seen from campaigns by the likes of Marcus Rashford that people want families and children to get enough suitable food. We are doing everything we can in Greater Manchester to provide support for people but there needs to be more action from government to address issues like the end of furlough and the end of the Universal Credit uplift that will cause people to fall into food poverty.”
Rev Ian Rutherford, Chair of the Homelessness Action Network and a member of the Food Security Action Network said:
“It’s a privilege to be involved in this new initiative. We have seen through the pandemic that many people have struggled to access enough food and we need to do more to ensure that everyone has enough suitable food for themselves and their families. The Food Security Action Network will give this important issue the attention it deserves.
“By having the community involved in the network we can share powerful stories together and help to deliver real change in Greater Manchester.”
The impact of the COVID pandemic has contributed to widening health and social inequalities across the city-region. A higher proportion of residents are now in a more vulnerable position but are not necessarily entitled to additional support. Despite the Government recently announcing the launch of the Household Support Fund it will still leave a significant funding gap in councils to support individuals and families who will be struggling to pay for their basic needs over the winter months and beyond.
The Food Security Action Network will build on the work GMCA has already done to address holiday hunger and food poverty including distributing over 7,000 emergency food cards to young people and funding grassroots organisations in Greater Manchester’s 10 boroughs to support families in need that are not eligible for other types of support.
Access to good food is a fundamental human right for everyone to nourish both physical and mental health and Greater Manchester was the first city-region to support the ‘Right to Food’ campaign. This campaign calls for a change in the law to make access to food a legal right for all in the UK making Government legally responsible to help people suffering from food poverty.