Food on the table. A secure home. A fair wage. These are some of the building blocks of life that ought to be everyone’s’ right. Achieving them for all ought to be common sense: common decency. And that’s why it was at our Common Decency themed conference in 2018 that we launched our Food Justice campaign. 

In the years since, that want for common decency and food justice has only grown stronger. Pre-pandemic and the resulting economic decline, there were already far too many families unable to make ends meet. Today, the need for our country to take seriously our collective responsibility to ensure that hundreds of thousands do not go hungry every day has been brought into horrifyingly sharp relief. 

The Co-operative Party is the political party of the UK co-operative movement, which has food justice at its core. It was food poverty and the want to provide affordable, nutritious food to their communities that drove the early pioneers of co-operative endeavour nearly 200 years ago, and it is that same spirit that drives today’s pioneers. We have been proud to work alongside co-operative retail societies around the country on this issue, and I know there is more to come. 

As ​England looks down the barrel of a second prolonged lockdown and the other nations in the UK take similar tough decisions, our collective work on food justice will take on a new dimension. The Co-operative Party and our partners have already persuaded our sister party – the Labour Party – to call for a new ‘Right To Food’. We have also worked with colleagues in the Welsh Government to agree to pursue new food justice ‘national milestones’. Working with co-operators in Local Government, we have persuaded councils to adopt new food strategies and appoint local food champions. We have raised the profile of local food justice responses and taken our message out to festivals and events across the country. I’m proud of what we’ve achieved over the past two years, but there is much more must be done. 

There are many fantastic organisations and experts campaigning against hunger, its drivers and results – and we have been blessed to learn from them and support their calls to action, while also providing the political knowledge which can be crucial to work on the ground. One area in which this has been particularly pivotal has been the benefits that a pro-active local authority taking co-ordinated action can bring. We’ve been proud to support the incredible work councils up and down the country have being doing, both before and during the pandemic, to fight food poverty locally. But now, our mission is to help councils embed that extraordinary effort so it can become the foundations for a more decent future.

Facing an uncertain future, the burdens our councils and communities will face will only increase, and we’re hopeful that these steps will help facilitate a stronger response to the hard times that may lay ahead. We will work in this area as part of our contribution to a much wider effort this country needs, which many have in recent weeks sat up to realise is required.