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How can communities work together to stop families going hungry?

PUBLISHED: 16:30 15 November 2020

Shoppers at the Combs Ford Co-op store donating to the Holiday Hunger campaign over summer. Picture: EAST OF ENGLAND CO-OPERATIVE

Shoppers at the Combs Ford Co-op store donating to the Holiday Hunger campaign over summer. Picture: EAST OF ENGLAND CO-OPERATIVE

Archant

The rising problem of food poverty and families going hungry in our region will be the subject of a two-day conference this week – with hopes it could help provide local solutions.

The East of England Food Justice Conference takes place this week Picture: East of England Co-opThe East of England Food Justice Conference takes place this week Picture: East of England Co-op

The East of England Food Justice Conference, organised by the East of England Co-op, will bring together experts in the field.

It comes as footballer Marcus Rashford continues to highlight the issue, and its impact on children, while in Suffolk and Essex foodbanks witness soaring demand.

The retailer now wants charities, community groups and local authorities in our region to come together for the free online conference on Tuesday and Wednesday morning, November 17 and 18, and look at local solutions to the crisis.

East of England Co-op Joint Chief Executive, Niall O’Keeffe, said: “We are very aware that the last few months have caused extreme hardship in our region for many individuals and families, who have found themselves living on the breadline and with no other option than to call for help to put food on their table.

The conference will ask how communities can help solve the food poverty crisis  Picture: East of England Co-opThe conference will ask how communities can help solve the food poverty crisis Picture: East of England Co-op

“We have been very moved by the dedication of local foodbanks and other organisations, who have been working around the clock to providing support to their communities in their hour of need and who will face immense uncertainty in the months ahead.

“As a local community retailer, we want to do everything we can to help during these extremely difficult times; not only to shine a light on the challenges they’re facing, but also to act as a catalyst for regional co-operation and action.

“We will, of course, continue to provide financial support through our Community Cares Fund where we can.”

MORE: How shoppers responded magnificently to help local foodbanks this summer

Guest speakers include Tessa Tricks (Hubbub and FoodSavvy) and Susannah Robirosa (ActivLives) with panellists including Tristan Easey (Community 360), Lucy Webb (Norwich Food Poverty Alliance) and Philip Aves (Lowestoft Rising).

The conference will look at:

• How organisations have risen to the challenge of providing access to food over the last few months.

You may also want to watch:

• How the ongoing impact of the pandemic could affect people’s ability to access the food they need.

• How sustainable local community support will be in the medium to long term.

⦁• How charities, agencies and retailers can work together better and improve outcomes for people in food poverty.

The conference, supported by Archant and run in co-operation with the Suffolk Community Foundation and Hubbub, is the latest initiative launched this year by the East of England Co-op to help ensure people have access to healthy, nutritional food.

MORE: Suffolk welcomes Marcus Rashford’s holiday hunger campaign success

Since the beginning of the Covid crisis, it has donated over £82,000 to local foodbanks, had a six-week summer ‘holiday hunger’ foodbank drive, which encouraged shoppers at its stores to donate five tonnes of foodbank items to support families over the school holidays.

To register for the East of England Food Justice Conference and for the full programme, visit the event website.

Backing Marcus Rashford’s campaign

The East of England Co-op is also part of the Child Food Poverty Taskforce set up by footballer Marcus Rashford after a high-profile campaign, which successfully called for extra government funding to:

• Expand free school meals to every child from a household on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 1.5m children aged seven to 16.

• Expand a school holiday food and activities programme to support all children on free school meals in all areas of England, instead of the current 50,000 children who receive support.

• Increase the value of Healthy Start vouchers - which help parents with children under the age of four and pregnant women buy basic foods - from £3.10 to £4.25 per week and expand it to all those on Universal Credit or equivalent, reaching an additional 290,000 people.

The East of England Co-op pledged to fund the £1.15 balance to increase the value to £4.25 of each Healthy Start voucher redeemed in its stores from September 21 until the Government changed its policy. The government has now agreed to fund the increase in value to £4.25 from April 21, 2021 but the East of England Co-op will honour the shortfall until then.


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