Report reveals food poverty affects larger families in Brighton

BHFP report reveals a growing number of families with three children or more in Brighton and Hove are sinking into food poverty.

 

 

by Emily O'Brien

A report by Brighton and Hove Food Partnership into food banks in the city discovered food poverty, the inability to obtain healthy, affordable food, remains an urgent issue for many households.

For the first time, the annual survey of the city’s food bank looked in depth at why people are resorting to food banks. The report showed low wages, changes in and delays to welfare benefit payments, unemployment, debt and the high cost of housing in the city are all contributing.  It was commissioned as part of the Food Poverty Action Plan ‘One Year On’ event taking place yesterday (Mon 17 Oct).

The non-profit organisation found the city’s fifteen food banks together distributed 298 food parcels per week, a slight increase on the 289 food parcels per week they distributed in 2015.

One of the most worrying findings is that the picture of a typical food bank user is changing, with increasing demand from new groups of people, for example families – especially larger families - who are affected by factors such as the city’s very high housing costs. Government changes in welfare benefits such as Local Housing Allowance, Child Tax credits and a drop in the benefits cap has particularly impacted on people with three and more children.

Foodbanks provide emergency stopgaps for weekends and school holidays 

Volunteer at the Purple People Kitchen Food Bank in Portslade Ann Menhinick said: "Large low income families are finding it hard to provide enough food for their children at weekends and during the school holidays. They rely on free school meals to offer a stopgap in their meal plans during term time.

“We regularly get requests for extra food from those with large families, especially when there are teenagers in the home.”

Brighton and Hove Food Partnership stress food bank use is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to food poverty, with  previous research estimating 23% of people in the city, or almost a quarter of residents, have trouble paying for basic costs including food.

BHFP Director Vic Borrill said: “There are many people who are struggling around food, often day in, day out, who are unwilling or unable to access a food bank. Food banks are only meant for short term emergency use. The much larger number of people who live with long term ‘household food insecurity’ are the focus of our city’s ambitious three year action plan to tackle food poverty.”

The annual report was released to coincide with an event to celebrate the achievements in the first year coming out of the action plan, which involves more than 50 organisations working together to tackle issues which force people into hunger and food poverty.

Vic Borrill added: “We want to become ‘the city that cooks and eats together” so we are delighted with both the expansion of Chomp school holiday lunch clubs for children and families who would normally be eligible for free school meals, and the launch of ‘Casserole Club’ to help local people share a meal with a vulnerable neighbour.”

The Food Partnership which carries out a range of projects such as supporting community gardens, running healthy weight programmes and tackling food waste as well as food poverty, stress there is still a long way to go.

“The next step is to build on this work with schools to improve their referrals to both food banks and to other longer term solutions,” added Ms Borrill.

One volunteer's story

Ann Menhinick volunteerVolunteer at the Purple People Kitchen Food Bank in Portslade Ann Menhinick described how larger families are trying to cope with not enough food.

She said: "Large low-income families are finding it hard to provide enough food for their children at weekends and during the school holidays. They rely on free school meals to offer a stopgap in their meal plans during term time.

“We regularly get requests for extra food from those with large families, especially when there are teenagers in the home.”

"They fill their children up with bread, pasta and potatoes as protein like meat, fish and cheese and fresh food are expensive luxuries. Many of the parents are inventive and resourceful and can make basic ingredients stretch.

“Some share shopping and cooking with neighbours and almost all of them are teaching their children how to make simple economical meals. Washing powder, shampoo and soap are a luxury for many families.

“Women go without the basics in order to provide for their children. We support them in every way possible by setting aside special items of food for the large families. By also providing secondhand clothes and household items we take the strain off their limited budgets. Just having us to turn to enables many of them to relax in the knowledge someone is there to support them."

Food Poverty Action Plan 

Brighton & Hove Food Poverty Action Plan 2015-2018 is a joint piece of work between 50 partners. They are named at the back of the report. The full document can be Food banks and emergency food network report 2016 final.