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New report reveals scale of food poverty in Liverpool City Region as cost-of-living crisis deepens

  • Combined Authority-commissioned report details 11-point plan to tackle food poverty
  • Authors VS6 Partnership call for immediate support for voluntary sector to tackle cost of living crisis
  • LCR home to half of England’s ten most deprived food ‘deserts’
  • Proposal to create a new food network and transform unused land for community use
  • Report comes as latest data shows big rise in households facing food insecurity

A new report has revealed the scale of food poverty in the Liverpool City Region – as the cost-of-living crisis deepens.

The Combined Authority-commissioned ‘Sustainable and Affordable Food for Liverpool City Region: Recommendations for Change’ makes 11 recommendations to tackle food insecurity and create a more sustainable food economy – as latest figures show a large rise in the number of people using foodbanks in the Liverpool City Region.

The comprehensive report, prepared by the VS6 Partnership which represents the city region’s 8,600 voluntary, community, faith and social enterprises (VCFSE), highlights the need for urgent action in a city region where food insecurity is a significant problem faced by many families.

Nationally, foodbanks are providing record amounts of food – up 81% compared to five years ago – but the majority are receiving fewer donations with many dipping into reserves to meet demand.

The report says: “In Liverpool, food banks are facing unprecedented times with donations failing to meet demand from communities. St Andrews Community Network gave out more than 4,490kg worth of food in May 2022, despite only receiving 2,725kg in donations.

“St Helens Food Bank has reported a 30% reduction in donations but 38% increase in support given to struggling households. The amount of people seeking support from their food bank service increased by 96% in February 2022 compared to the same time last year, with 40% more food bank vouchers being fulfilled.”

More recent figures from the Trussell Trust, which represents around half of the city region’s foodbanks, reveal that between April and September this year 41,821 three-day food parcels were distributed – helping 15,308 children. The figure was the Trust’s highest ever and was almost 38% higher than the same period in 2021.

Mayor of the Liverpool City Region, Steve Rotheram, said:

“In 2022, it beggars belief that where you are born often determines your life chances – a post code lottery dictating your bank balance, the food you can afford, the diseases you’re likely to develop, and how long you will live. Yet our region is not an outlier, this is the reality facing millions up and down the country who will struggle to put food on the table this winter – some having to make the impossible choice between heating and eating.

“I want our area to lead the way in showing the rest of the country how to help the most vulnerable in our society by treating people as human beings, not statistics. Think of it as ‘radical kindness’ – we’ve stepped up for local people by investing nearly £5m to give families access to the support they need during the cost of living crisis and are helping some of our most vulnerable households to save up to £200 a month on their energy bills through our £60m retrofitting programme.

“I’m incredibly proud of the investments we’ve made to help people through the worst cost of living crisis in a generation – but I’m under no illusion about the scale of the challenge. This report is a roadmap to address the root causes of food insecurity and how, as a community, we can tackle it. It’s going to require huge investment from central government and a collective effort from across our public, private, voluntary, faith and social enterprise sectors on this journey to building a fairer, more socially-just place for our 1.6m residents – where no one is left behind.”

The report recommends, for the first time, co-ordinating and strengthening the efforts of the local voluntary sector – including foodbanks, pantries and community growers – to address the root causes of food insecurity.

It says responding to the current crisis should be prioritised coupled with the development of a detailed LCR Food Network and a summit to bring key figures together.

In the longer term, the report says unused land should be transformed into community gardens and growing initiatives with the skills agenda aligned with sustainable and affordable food.

Cllr Janette Williamson, Portfolio Holder for Inclusive Economy and Third Sector, said:

“Having access to affordable, healthy food is a fundamental right – yet in these challenging economic times thousands of city region households are struggling just to put food on the table.

“This report highlights the scale of the problem and how it’s getting worse, but also offers a way forward to make food insecurity a thing of the past. Swift action is needed to tackle the profound challenges posed by the cost-of-living-crisis and to end this appalling situation once and for all.”

The city region is home to half of England’s ten most deprived ‘food deserts’ – neighbourhoods between 5,000-15,000 people served by two or fewer supermarkets or convenience stores.

In compiling the report, VS6 conducted a community food mapping exercise in which community food organisations were identified across the city region.

The report recommends embedding a ‘right to food’ in policy and decision making and the development of a food database.

VS6 Chair and the Diocese of Liverpool’s Director of Social Justice, Canon Chancellor Dr Ellen Loudon said:

“As families and households across the country are facing significant challenges compounded by the cost-of-living crisis, pushing people already experiencing food insecurity into further deprivation, we must come together as a City Region to address the root causes of food insecurity and explore opportunities for solutions.

“This report is essential for us to create a City Region where everyone has access to affordable, sustainable, and healthy food, and we look forward to working closely with the Combined Authority and other partners to continue this work.”