Tackling food poverty in York

Denise CraghillGreen Party councillor for Guildhall ward, Denise Craghill, has welcomed the unanimous support at the Council Meeting last night for her motion on tackling food poverty in York, but has also called on the Council to ensure that action follows on after the speeches.

She said, ‘I am delighted that all political parties on the Council supported my motion to look at how the Council can take a lead, working with other organisations in the city, to support the number of people in York who don’t know where their next meal is coming from. I particularly welcome the comments from Carol Runciman, the Executive member for Adult Social Care and Health that she is would like to work with the Greens to progress this issue. It is important that action follows on after the speeches and we consider all the options for improving on existing support.’

The motion asks the Council to write to York’s MPs urging their support for a national campaign to persuade the Government to properly measure food poverty in the UK, referring to a report from the United Nations that says that up to 17 times the growing number of people who actually use food banks are experiencing ‘food insecurity’ – not knowing where their next meal will come from, not eating in order to provide food for their children or having to choose between food and paying bills.

It also asks for a report to the Council’s Executive to bring together any local figures on food poverty, to look into how far welfare support and crisis payments in York are reaching those who most need them and to put forward options for further action.

Denise Craghill’s speech proposing the motion

Motion on Food Poverty

Speech to propose

We all know that York is a relatively wealthy city but we also all know that low household income and inequality are serious problems, with both pockets of deprivation and individuals and families living in poverty across our city. Official statistics show that around 11.7% of York’s children are living in poverty – that’s more than 4,000 children in York living in families where choices have to be made on a daily basis between paying bills, eating or finding money for other items that support a healthy childhood such as clothing, outings and play.

We also know that food banks have generally been experiencing an increase in their use with the Trussell Trust alone reporting a 13% increase last year and York Food Bank distributing nearly three and a half thousand food parcels. Most worryingly a United Nations report suggests that as many as 17 times the number of people who actually get to food banks are living with food insecurity – unsure how they can afford to pay for their next meal or provide food for their children. But, at the moment we are not collecting these figures for the UK at the national level and we don’t have clear local statistics either.

So, this motion is asking you to do two things. Firstly, to write as a Council to both York MPs urging them to support the campaign in Parliament for the Government to measure food poverty in the UK.

And secondly to investigate what additional actions we might take in York in response to this growing crisis. The motion acknowledges the work of Good Food York and York Food Poverty Alliance. The latter is providing a programme of lunches around the city this summer aimed at reducing ‘holiday hunger’ – when school meals are not available – and is largely run by volunteers with small amounts of ward funding. It is an example of an excellent initiative that will hopefully also bring people together. But as a new scheme set up by volunteers in a short period of time it is only one day a week in most locations, with travelling further afield a challenge in itself for families on low incomes – so clearly a great deal more is needed.

Please support this motion to bring about a focus on how the Council can take a lead, working with other organisations in the city, voluntary sector partners and others to take more action on this issue.


Text of the motion:

Food Poverty

Council notes:

  • The End Hunger UK campaign supported by Oxfam, Child Poverty Action Group, UK churches, and the Trussell Trust amongst many others.
  • Growing cross party support for the campaign to require the Government to measure food insecurity in the UK.
  • The 2014 United Nations study that indicated that as many as 17 times the number of people using Trussell Trust foodbanks are food insecure.
  • The 2018 report by the Children’s Society and the Church of England that concludes that local welfare schemes are failing to reach many people in crisis.
  • York’s status as a member of the Sustainable Food Cities Network and ongoing work by the Good Food York partnership and York Food Poverty Alliance to promote access for all to healthy food in York.

Council further notes that:

  • According to York’s Joint Heath and Well Being Strategy 11.7% of children in York were living in poverty in 2015.
  • The Trussell Trust experienced a 13% increase in the number of 3-day emergency food supplies distributed by its food banks during the last financial year; York Food Bank alone distributed 3,379 parcels last year.

Council therefore resolves:

  • To request the Chief Executive to write to both York MPs urging them to support Emma Lewell-Buck MP’s Private Members Bill coming up in the Autumn to require the Government to measure food poverty in the UK
  • To request a report to Executive setting out:
    • the background to food poverty in York including any available local statistics and how local measurement might be improved;
    • the current role of crisis support in York in mitigating food poverty; and
    • range of options for the Council and its partners to improve the city wide response to food poverty in York.

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