Food Poverty in Newcastle: The voluntary and community sector view and response

Food Poverty in Newcastle report cover image

This report was collated for the October 2018 meeting of the Newcastle Voluntary Sector Liaison Group. It is not meant to be a comprehensive report on the causes of food poverty or a list of resources and all local activities, but instead a description of some of the realities of food poverty and the response from some of the voluntary and community organisations active in Newcastle upon Tyne.

Food poverty can take a number of forms, not just lack of access to food, but to fresh, healthy, nutritious food; having a regular food supply; having a choice of food; and having culturally appropriate food. Food plays an important role in all cultures and the sharing of food is seen to be more than a transactional offer.

There has been a noticeable increase in food poverty in the last six years; although there have historically been issues around inequalities and food as reported in The Black Report (1980). It is hard not to draw any direct causation between food poverty and the introduction of welfare reforms, and the evidence provided by local voluntary organisations also supports this view.

There have been several academic reports – Social Policy Association (2015), University of Sheffield (2015), Trussell Trust (2014), Cambridge University (2018) and numerous studies from anti-poverty organisations such as Child Poverty Action Group, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Oxfam and Save the Children.

In August 2018, The Guardian reported that two senior Department of Work and Pensions (DWP) officials had been tasked with overseeing a study to investigate whether the Government’s own policies are to blame for the sharp rise in foodbanks. However, those involved have been asked to sign non-disclosure agreements.

The rise in the numbers of and the use of foodbanks has been a controversial issue, with Conservative ministers refusing to acknowledge that austerity-driven changes to welfare provision, including the introduction of Universal Credit, may be directly responsible for the significant increase in people needing emergency help.

Foodbanks themselves are often controversial amongst social activists, as they respond to poverty rather than address it. New responses (on a smaller scale), about people producing food differently (The Comfrey Project), coming together to eat it (social cafes) and eating more healthily (Food Newcastle and Food Nation) are emerging. Some organisations don’t want to over-publicise their activities, as they can’t cope with too many users.

To read the full report please download the document below.