Lib Dems lead report into food poverty and insecurity across Guildford borough

June 10, 2019 7:10 PM

Lib Dem councillors led a cross-party task force that reported on food poverty and food insecurity across Guildford borough to GBC's Overview & Scrutiny (O&S) Committee on Tuesday, June 4, and found both conditions within our "affluent" area.

The five-member group, supported by GBC's Scrutiny Manager and set up in 2017, worked with academics, local organisations, charities, Guildford food banks (their volunteers and clients), the Trussell Trust, Ash Citizens Advice, the Guildford Diocese, the Woking Lighthouse, School Link Liaison staff and holiday lunch clubs among others.

The aim was to understand why people turned to food banks, who provides food aid, and how accessible/appropriate are our food-aid provisions across the borough.

Martin Caraher, Professor of Food & Health Policy at City University of London, told the committee about national food poverty, including prices, family debt, falling income and static welfare benefits. He said food banks do not deal with food poverty; at best they tackle some issues of "immediate want" and that under international law everyone has a right to food. Health effects through food insecurity /poverty include obesity, dental decay and diseases once eradicated, such as rickets.

Maria Zealey, manager of Surrey Welfare Rights Unit, discussed the impact of benefits, including Universal Credit, on residents.

Cllr Angela Goodwin (Friary & St Nicolas), and chair of the task force, said:

"This sobering report has opened a door. Members of the O&S have given this group many good ideas which will be taken on board by Julia McShane (the Portfolio holder) and GBC officers.

"Poverty is uncomfortable to talk about especially when we live and work in such an affluent part of Surrey. We've learnt that poverty has many faces, among them fuel, period and food and they affect people from all walks, in urban or rural areas.

"We heard of families being 'asset-rich but cash-poor', working people who pay their rent, gas, electric and council tax but have little left to buy food. Some families face stark choices, including mothers who do not eat so they can feed their children. Then there are the elderly, disabled, vulnerable, or those with mental problems who struggle on low incomes."

The 16 recommendations agreed at the meeting are on pages 49-50 of this report:

http://www2.guildford.gov.uk/councilmeetings/documents/s13882/Item%2004%20-%20Appendix%201%20Task%20group%20report.pdf

The Food Poverty report will be referred to the GBC Executive followed by full council on July 23.