Peterborough Council for Voluntary Service (PCVS) has launched its Food Poverty Forum which aims to bring communities together to share information, discuss and identify issues and by working together, find solutions to tackle food poverty across the city. The group, amongst other actions, will contribute to the food strategy for Peterborough being led by Peterborough City Council.
The current cost of living crisis, an upshot of the pandemic and resulting lockdowns have left more and more people experiencing food poverty in the UK. Demand approximately doubled in Peterborough when the first Covid lockdown happened and overall has remained consistently high ever since. Between March 2020 to September 2021, the Trussell Trust network distributed 2.5 million food parcels throughout the UK. The following year, during this same period they distributed 5,100 emergency food parcels a day to people in crisis. This is an increase of 11%! Even more alarmingly, families with children have been hit the hardest, with food parcels for children increasing at double the rate for adults. This is why it is a crucial time for PCVS to relaunch the Food Poverty Forum as working collaboratively at this time is so vital.
PCVS invites anyone in the sector that has an interest in food poverty or who are supporting individuals that are suffering from food poverty to join them at their next forum. These are held regularly on zoom and you can contact [email protected] for more information.
The impact of what can be achieved in the city to tackle this issue is evident from work that the Peterborough Food Partnership (PFP) has accomplished to date. PCVS with the help of National Lottery funding, set up the PFP back in April 2020 as a network of food distribution organisations and charities whose aim was to get food to those who were desperately in need as well as focus on the sustainable environmental aspect of food redistribution to ensure minimal food is wasted.
Part of DEFRA funding that Peterborough City Council received to deal with the Coronavirus emergency food situation in the city, was allocated to PCVS to distribute funds via PFP. This has helped PFP members make a real difference to date helping people in the city who need it the most. For example, West Raven Community Café and Garden in Westwood give out 50 or more free food bags a week, not including the food they offer from their free fridge.
Peterborough Homeless Helpers have been able to purchase better quality equipment which has helped massively eg. with an increased number of better quality cool boxes they could transport hot food knowing it is staying piping hot - not only a food safety priority, but a hot meal is such a rarity for a rough sleeper.
Family Action runs a weekly Food Club from their Centre in Dogsthorpe which is supported by both Fareshare and Food for Nought. The Food Club is attended by an average of 70 families each week with an increasing demand. Stocks were very depleted and £1000 was awarded to enable the stock of ambient foods could be replenished in order to meet need.
Sally Grieff, Service manager there says, “At Family Action Peterborough, we found that over the course of the pandemic, offering food support has helped to maintain a level of social interaction with vulnerable individuals. We have also found that the range of food offered, has aided families to develop new cooking skills. Many families have expressed that they are cooking with new foods and cooking more meals from scratch. They are also getting their children more involved in food preparation and cooking.”
Parnwell Together, KingsGate Community Church and Peterborough Foodbank are working together to open a food pantry in Parnwell that will support families facing food poverty. The funding will used to purchase a display fridge and freezer that will enable the food pantry to offer chilled foods
Paston Farm Community Foundation has decided to replace their kitchen in order to be able to give cooking lessons or group sessions using their community fridge produce. Louise Roe, the Development Centre Manager says, “We are thrilled to receive almost £2, 000 towards replacing our community kitchen. This will make a huge difference to the 30 to 40 people who attend our fridge each week. Many people ask us about unusual produce in the fridge and how to use it. By getting them involved in cooking these items, means they would feel more confident using it at home. Participating in cookery lessons also provides the opportunity for people to come together and engage with other members in the community, which is most welcome in light of those who have felt isolated over the pandemic”
The range of invaluable support on offer is vast and much needed. If you are interested in getting involved and finding out more about PFP or The Food Poverty Forum please email [email protected]