What are the drivers of food poverty now and in the future?

Birmingham Food Council event on food poverty
Birchfield Community School, Birmingham
11th May 2015

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The event is looking for different perspectives of the food supply system from attendees and asks a pretty big question – are drivers of emergency food aid here to stay? And if they are, how can Birmingham address this at a city level?

But in the first group session, things kicked off with this question: what are the actual drivers of food poverty – now and in the future?

Group listed as many of the current drivers of emergency food poverty as they could…

  • Homelessness (3% of the reason for people going to food banks)
  • Benefits system
  • Sanctions
  • ‘Working poor’ – precarious, low-security employment faced by some people who access food banks

Representative of a charitable organisation that provides food banks talked about access to theirs – people have to be referred / on average, access twice / there to meet a crisis need, not to offer long-term support. It’s a very holistic approach – not just queuing up for food and sent away. Looking at bringing advisers into the food bank from, say, the CAB, job club etc. It’s a lot more than food at a food bank.

19% increase in people coming to their food banks in the last financial year

Food poverty – interesting question asked, here. Why is this distinct from poverty per se? Useful to shine a light on one of the consequences of poverty. There are other ‘titles’ of poverty – fuel poverty, for example. The best solution is to look at the causes of inequality and poverty – not focus on food, or fuel poverty.

Question asked – How can we get to hidden people?

Representative from a small housing association in Birmingham – food is central to the care at sheltered accommodation schemes. Couldn’t think of anyone from the scheme who would need to access a food bank. But said elderly people can sometimes get ‘lost’ in much larger associations

1 in 5 people say they skip food themselves to feed their children.

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Group then discussed what future drivers may be?

  • Poverty – this isn’t going away
  • Global warming and environmental change – prices may well go up. UK imports 50% of its food
  • We have to think about the global picture, even though we’re looking at a specific city
  • Urbanisation of the world is a big issue. People are getting better off across the world; life longevity increasing – but they’re now starting to demand the diets of the West, so to speak. The globe can also produce so much meat. There will be more competition for certain elements of food, pushing up prices
  • Increased global mobility
  • Will Birmingham become richer and the people better off? It’s very hard to tell
  • Question – Will the supply network become more localised?
  • Increasingly elderly population. Will this be a driver? Representative from small housing association described the care and support for elderly people, but said elderly people can sometimes get ‘lost’ in much larger associations

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