man in black t-shirt holding coca cola bottle
Photo by Joel Muniz on Unsplash

In Warrington, three tonnes of food was a year’s provision for our local foodbank in 2012. Now, three tonnes are only enough for one week. The situation has become so dire that industrial units are now required to meet demand.

Food poverty has numerous long-term impacts, not just confined to health. Residents using our foodbank often experience feelings of personal shame and social exclusion. It is heartbreaking when parents tell us they go without meals whilst working multiple shifts and do not heat their homes, just to be able to feed their children.

Warrington was a pilot area for Universal Credit and no amount of reforms to the system since have prevented people from falling through the cracks. Recognising this, Warrington Borough Council set up Warrington Food Pantry; a joint venture with local housing providers that entitles struggling residents to fresh and healthy produce, community cooking sessions, budgeting and wellbeing advice, as well volunteering and training opportunities.

But Covid has now exacerbated an already significant problem. Whilst volunteering at a food parcel centre recently, I was told they were dealing with 100 new requests for help in a single day.

Local responses from businesses along with churches and community groups, as well as concerned citizens have played a crucial role in supporting those in food crisis, particularly after the Government’s initial rejection of extending Free School Meals.

Human Rights Watch said in 2019 that crisis levels of food poverty “cannot be fixed without concerted effort by the Government”. A clear abandonment of this responsibility is demonstrated by the government’s failure to appoint a Minister for Food Poverty to this day.

Working with partners, Warrington Borough Council is now strengthening local efforts by developing a Food Justice Action Plan having unanimously passed the Co-op Party’s Food Justice motion, and will continue to call on the Government for a more strategic approach to the issue of Food Poverty nationally.

Nutritious and healthy food is a human right, but until the Government acts meaningfully, people will still go hungry next week and the week after. This is only being prevented by a concerted effort by compassionate citizens here in Warrington working to ensure their neighbours do not go hungry.