Emma invited local food banks and charities to a meeting at South Shields Town Hall on Friday (6 February) to discuss the findings of the All-Party Inquiry into Hunger and Food Poverty, and to discuss ways of putting an end to food poverty in South Shields.
The inquiry’s report was published last year, after the cross-party group of MPs and Peers spent months compiling evidence and travelling around the country speaking to food banks and food bank users. The inquiry visited South Shields in July.
The report recommended action from the Government to address low pay, benefit delays, and harsh benefit sanctions. It also called for new initiatives to reduce food waste and redistribute surplus food to those in need.
Emma called today’s meeting to discuss the next steps for South Shields. A number of local food banks discussed developing a ‘Food Bank Plus’ model that would join up their services with groups like Citizens Advice / Welfare Rights so that people could access different kinds of support under one roof.
Emma also updated the meeting on the All-Party Group’s ongoing work, including the recent visit to Community Shop, an enterprise that sells surplus food at affordable prices. Emma will be meeting with Community Shop in the coming weeks to discuss the possibility of bringing a store to South Shields.
Speaking after today’s meeting, Emma said:
“It is unacceptable that anyone should be going hungry in a wealthy country like Britain, and that’s why I joined the inquiry last year. Our report looked at ways of helping those going hungry, but we were also clear that the only long term solution to hunger is to deal with the root causes of poverty: falling incomes, rising living costs and a failing benefits system.
“Today’s meeting was very productive, and I look forward to working with all the fantastic organisations in Shields who are working to help struggling households.
“Shields made a huge contribution to the inquiry’s report, and I want to thank everyone who gave evidence last July as well as everyone who attended today.”
Jean Burnside of South Tyneside KEY Project said:
“The meeting was well attended. The report was welcomed and It was good to hear that some progress has been made, but it soon became clear that there is still a long way to go.
“It was recognised that there is a capacity issue in that all of the Food Banks are run by volunteers. The work has increased and there is a need for this to be better co-ordinated.
“The plan of putting in a joint funding bid to raise money for a paid co-ordinator was welcomed and the Churches Together Group have put together a job description and person specification.
“Hopefully all of this work will result in us all being able to make a better and more co-ordinated response to the issue of food poverty in South Tyneside.”