On Wednesday 16 October, Wen is taking part in Filling the Pantry, organized by the London Housing Financial Inclusion group. Coinciding with London Challenge Poverty week, the roundtable will bring local authorities, housing associations and food charities together to explore partnerships to tackle hunger in London.
There is an urgent need to act. Earlier this year, the Greater London Authority carried out an extensive survey to determine the proportion of adults and children in London that go hungry on a regular basis due to lack of resources. The results are shocking: 1.5 million adults and 400,000 children do not have enough food for a fulfilled and active life. Across the country, the number of families dependent on emergency food from food banks is rising.
The Trussell Trust, a large network of food banks, provided 20% more food supplies to people in crisis in 2018-19 than the previous year. Other initiatives are rising up to provide food alongside food banks. In fact, many aim to provide an alternative, amid concerns that the stigma of using a food bank may deter those who most need support from taking it up. One such project is food pantries, whereby people can buy a range of food items, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, meat, fish, dairy and tinned goods at a reduced rate.
At the recently opened St Giles Food Pantry in South Kensington, a partnership between three housing associations (Southern Housing, Guinness Trust and Clarion Futures), users pay £3.50 for £20 worth of food, and are free to select a range of food from the shelves and chiller cabinets – much as you would in a regular shop.
There is also an ecological benefit: many social supermarkets get their food from Fareshare, the charity that redistributes food from large retailers that would otherwise have gone to waste. Similar projects include Lucie’s Pantry in Salford and Peckham Pantry in Peckham, SE London. Business models vary, but the mission is the same – to offer dignified support to people experiencing hard times.
Wen has been running Tower Hamlets Food, a partnership of organisations taking action for a fairer, more sustainable food system in the borough. We would like to see food pantries in the borough’s poorest communities, and believe that housing providers should lead the way.
A small, underused estate space could provide a convenient pantry space for their tenants. Councils may also have appropriate vacant assets, as well as providing support and advice to get projects off the ground.
We are excited that housing providers, council officers and food charities will come together on Wednesday to make the connections that could lead to a wave of innovation – in Tower Hamlets and across London.
Jo Wilson, coordinator – Tower Hamlets Food, Wen
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