Exeter councillor calls for ‘food justice’ in Devon to help struggling families

An Exeter councillor has called for a Devon-wide plan to stop families relying on food banks. 

St Sidwells and St James representative Su Aves put forward a motion at the county council’s October meeting, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.

It asks for an existing cabinet member to take on responsibility for ‘food justice’ and for the authority to commit a food partnership to work with district councils and other partners to develop a food action plan.

The motion would see Devon County Council (DCC) re-double its efforts to increase free school meal sign-ups to ensure all those entitled or in need receive them.

It also calls for scrutiny committee members to look at the extent of food poverty, map it, and understand what is going on across the county.

And DCC would also be invited to team up with MPs and write to the Government encouraging it to commit funding to protect children’s health, increase access to nutritious food that is culturally appropriate, and support local food production and suppliers as well as the farming and fishing industries in Devon.

Protection of workers’ jobs so that food supplies are sustained throughout the coronavirus pandemic and any shortages or delays experienced during Brexit, are also called for.

As is increasing Universal Credit so people can buy enough food.

The move follows research from the Trussell Trust which shows three million children in the UK are at risk of hunger during the school holidays.

It anticipates that ending furlough in October would trigger a further rise in food bank use of at least 61 per cent.

Councillor Aves said: “The Food Justice motion is so important for improving the support needed by the many residents across Devon who are suffering from food poverty.

“Putting forward this motion is driven by my discovery that Devon County Council has no food strategy in place despite doing so much to help residents during the current pandemic crisis.

“The work being done by the Trussell Trust, Marcus Rashford and others needs support by every local authority.

“Devon County Council needs to have a food action plan to be proactive and provide, with partners, support for all those without enough food.

“Everyone needs nutritious and good-quality food. It is not acceptable that parents are having to go without food so they can feed their children.

“Universal Credit is not high enough to cope with the current situation and for government to consider removing the £20 extra per week that has been a lifeline for many since April is not acceptable.

“Our Government should be protecting residents from the food poverty fallout of Covid-19 and the increasing unemployment.”

Cllr Hilary Ackland, who represents the Pinhoe and Mincinglake ward, added: “Reliance on food banks to alleviate hunger is unacceptable.

“The implications of food hunger need to be mitigated by policies like introducing a healthy food subsidy scheme.

“In Devon County Council we need to support and encourage the building of a food infrastructure in which healthy nutritious food locally produced at affordable prices pre-dominates.”

The motion was referred to the council’s cabinet for consideration. A recommendation will then come back before the full council.

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