THE End Hunger UK campaign took a big leap forward on 17 October, when activists and experts gathered to share stories, ideas and expertise. End Hunger UK Press Officer Gavin Aitchison writes about what happened on the day.
Over the past year, campaign members have been building support and honing policy proposals, working with community groups, charities, academics and politicians. On 17 October, at a conference in Central Hall in Westminster, around 150 people from around the UK gathered for a series of workshops and discussions, and most signed pledge cards before they left, vowing to rally groups where they live. The event also saw the release of a draft menu for change, setting out 10 ideas for Government action.
We were delighted with the turn-out, the input from the speakers and attendees, and the overwhelming determination to step up the campaign.
If you couldn’t make it, you can still get involved in the next stages of the campaign. Over the next year, we’ll be making a concerted effort to gather first-hand accounts of food poverty across the UK, to help us make the case for change. We’ll also be stepping up the pressure for changes to the way Universal Credit is introduced and for a review of the Local Welfare Assistance Schemes around the country.
We also want to continue to broaden the campaign. You can start by signing up your local group or campaign to End Hunger UK’s campaign for a country where no one goes to bed hungry at night.
Josh Fenton-Glynn, End Hunger UK campaign manager, said: “The conference was a very powerful event. We heard some harrowing stories of hunger from around the UK, but also some fantastic ideas for how we can end hunger. There is a clear groundswell of support now for Government action – not only from within charities and political circles, but across the country. We can end hunger in the UK, but we need supporters up and down the country to help, by getting involved with the campaign and by working with their local MP and community campaigners.”
Niall Cooper, director of Church Action on Poverty, opened the conference, telling delegates that End Hunger UK was a powerful movement with public opinion on its side. He said polls had shown majority support for the campaign’s goals.
A panel then discussed the issue: Who is responsible for ending hunger in the UK? Jackie Long, social affairs editor of Channel 4 News chaired the session, and was joined on the panel by Alison Garnham, chief executive of Child Poverty Action Group; Dr Hannah Lambie-Mumford of Sheffield University; and Sharon Hodgson MP, Shadow Public Health Minister.
There were further panel discussions on the need for the welfare system to prevent destitution; making sure children receive nutrition 365 days a year, including discussion of Frank Field MP’s School Holidays (Meals and Activities) Bill; and measuring the scale of food insecurity. Alongside those, attendees could choose from workshops on building local End Hunger UK groups, engaging MPs, developing a local food poverty strategy, engaging the media, and engaging people with direct experience of food poverty in the campaign.
At a glance: What some of those at the conference said
“People are facing severe income shortfalls; it is not surprising poverty is rising. Universal Credit is not working. The 2015 budget blew great holes in its ability to work. It has to be rolled out to achieve Government savings and that’s why it’s producing a system that is going to make people worse off. We project there are going to be one million children worse off. I don’t think we have got the scale of this into our heads yet.” – Alison Garnham
“At the moment, those responsible are charities and NGOs – but who should be responsible? Ultimately, we need some political leadership.” – Hannah Lambie-Mumford
“The North-South divide is what drove me into politics. Being poor in parts of the North East is the worst.” – Sharon Hodgson
“In the holidays, food is a big part of it but so are activities. It’s not just about hunger of the belly, but hunger of the spirit and mind.” – Sharon Hodgson
“At Magic Breakfast, we have fed 30,000 children, but there are 500,000 children going hungry. Let’s get school breakfasts over the line.” – Carmel McConnell, Magic Breakfast
“Everyone should go out of this room and demand that Government does something about this. I’m optimistic that people power will make a difference.” – Alison Garnham
“We have a lot of unemployment and zero-hours contracts in our borough, and we have seen a high number of people sanctioned. There are very few long-term jobs that offer a wage that enables people to participate.” – Tracey Herrington, Thrive Teesside
“Research among people using Trussell Trust foodbanks shows that the average income for the month before they visited was £319 for the household.” – Garry Lemon, Trussell Trust
“We need people with direct experience to take the lead. Without that, we cannot make a difference.” – Tracey Herrington
“Both the UN and Unicef have said we are failing our children and have to do better.” – Lindsay Graham, independent researcher
“There is action you can take. Check the list on my website of MPs who have signed the holiday hunger bill, and ask your MP to sign it.” – Frank Field MP
“People are pushing huge amounts of food, love and care to families that have nothing. I want us as a country to say it is not acceptable to have children too hungry to learn in the classroom, or unable during the holidays to enjoy even basic pleasures.” – Carmel McConnell
“At some stage it will come to us as a campaign to ask what are the driving forces, how do we deal with the root causes? But in the meantime, the big moral priority is how to we end hunger now?” – Frank Field MP
“Education should not be denied just because of the accident of waking up in a hungry home. We have to say we are investing in every single person in this country, not just those who are working or rich.” – Carmel McConnell
“I’ve been really impressed today to hear what some of the local End Hunger UK groups are doing particularly to communicate about what’s happening, to their local councils or MPs, not just presenting data but also peoples individual stories.” – Simon Shaw, Sustain
“I’ve been really struck by the amount of amazing work that is going on throughout the country and the change that could happen if we really work together to make this work. I’m really excited about the bill that’s hopefully going to go through around holiday hunger and what that might mean, and I’m really excited to go back with some momentum to those I’m working with.” – Beth Buckley, Transforming Notts Together
“What I’ve been really inspired by and will take from today is the number of agencies and organisations spanning the UK who really want to get behind the holiday hunger bill and make it a success and the level of campaigning and motivation to really change things on the ground for the most vulnerable members of our society.” – Rachel McGrath, Northamptonshire Food Poverty Network
Get involved in our campaign – Josh Fenton-Glynn writes about the next steps in the campaign here.