Community sector provides rapid response to food insecurities

by Laura Barnes | 7 Sep 2021

Cornwall VSF and sister organisations in the South West showcase the community effort in responding to the pandemic.

Food insecurity has been on the rise in the UK for several years. Many issues surrounding it were exacerbated by the pandemic. We are all concerned that for many people living with food insecurities, things are about to get worse. The £20 top up to Universal Credit is set to come to an end in October, coupled with the end of furlough. With a peer group of voluntary sector organisations, we collaborated to commission a report, examining food vulnerability.

What is the report?

The Food Insecurities Report, completed by Rose Regeneration demonstrates the importance of collaboration in the pandemic. Food insecurity provides a lens through which to understand a wider range of impacts linked to the Covid-19 pandemic. In particular, food insecurity demonstrates the role that the voluntary and community sector (VCS) has played in the pandemic – not just in helping to provide food support, but in linking this support to mitigate the effects of the broader social and economic impacts on local communities. Many of the issues identified in this report and the response to them predate the pandemic, which has brought them to a head. A huge civic effort, organised at the local level, has demonstrated the significant capacity of local people to solve big challenges when faced by a crisis without undue direction and, in some cases, with very little external funding.

A positive example is the Cornwall VSF Food Access Alliance. The Alliance has created a networking forum for food banks, community larders, distribution orgs and community growers to collaborate. This level of collaboration ensures that support (through donations and food surplus) is maximised and redistributed to those people/communities where there is demand. Insights from on the ground help contribute to the overall Food Security strategy. Cornwall VSF shares this with multiple stakeholders locally and nationally to advocate for a more sustainable food strategy for all.

Helen Boardman,  CEO of Cornwall Voluntary Sector Forum said, “The response to the pandemic here has been phenomenal. There are possibly too may community organisations to mention, for fear of missing some out. What these demonstrate is that it an emergency, we can rely on communities.”

Key findings of the report:

1. The voluntary and community sector has played a central role in the local food response to the Covid-19 crisis

2. Whilst the nature of the response in each locality reflects the geography, demographics and capacity of each area, there are key common themes

3. The Covid-19 crisis has allowed new approaches to develop quickly, with VCS organisations often having increased agency to make decisions and shape approaches within cross-sector partnerships

4. The challenge now is to ensure that local food strategies move effectively from emergency response to providing sustainable support that links to wider agendas around poverty, health, and local sustainability.

5. Future approaches should be based on a clear, evidenced understanding of need at a local level Robyn Knox VCSEP Director said, “This report supports the vital inclusion of voluntary and community sector organisations in building a resilient society. It also highlights how existing social inequalities can so easily be exacerbated in an emergency situation.  We hope to see more inclusion of the voluntary and community sector in local resilience building and in influencing and co-creating positive health outcomes for all.”

Download report

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