'No child should go hungry here' amid Stoke-on-Trent food poverty review

Councillors have launched an investigation into food poverty and the use of foodbanks in Stoke-on-Trent. Stoke-on-Trent Foodbank supported 24,000 people with three-day emergency food parcels last year, with help also being provided by a wide range of voluntary groups, churches and charities across the country.

Volunteers have reported being overwhelmed by demand during the cost-of-living crisis, with some saying that last Christmas was their busiest ever.

Now scrutiny committee members at Stoke-on-Trent City Council are carrying out a review to 'assess the extent and impact of food insecurity/poverty across the city, and to understand provision and usage of foodbanks'. The review will focus on two main areas: asking why people use foodbanks and looking at the provision available in Stoke-on-Trent; and comparing how food insecurity in the Potteries compares to other areas.

READ: Scores of starving Stoke-on-Trent children relying on food handouts to survive - Alarming new food parcel data has emerged showing large parts of the city are in poverty

READ: Cost of living crisis laid bare as families queue for food parcels every week - 80 people are queuing outside Bentilee Family Hub every week

Members of the adult social care, health integration and wellbeing scrutiny committee will spend months exploring the issue before compiling a final report.

Committee member Adrian Knapper believes the review should look to find examples of best practice for relieving food poverty in Stoke-on-Trent.

He said: "It's very worrying that people in this city have to rely on food being given to them in this way. It's like going back to the 1920s with the old soup kitchens. We need to ensure that people are fed, but at the same time we need to try to improve the standards of people's lives.

"There's a lot of good practice taking place in this city. The Co-op Academy in Tunstall have a community fridge that can be used by pupils and the wider community. In a lot of cases it's not just about access to food, it's about community cohesion as well. But no child should go hungry in this city."

A community fridge food bank has been opened at the Co-Op Academy, Tunstall.
A community fridge food bank has been opened at the Co-Op Academy, Tunstall. -Credit:Pete Stonier / Stoke Sentinel

Councillor Lynn Watkins has backed the review and suggested it look at organisations providing support beyond foodbanks, giving Better Together, the Salvation Army, and Middleport Matters as examples.

She said: "I believe there really is a large number of residents in the city accessing foodbanks, food pantries, food fridges, and it's something that the committee needs to consider."

The review was originally due to have a wider scope, looking at other issues such as how foodbanks operate and the city council's role. But committee member Heather Blurton argued that a larger review would be too unwieldy and less effective.

She said: "There are only six committee members here and I don't think with the original scope we'd be able to achieve something that's worthy of our residents. We've heard about all the different community groups that provide food, we can't look into them all. I just think this scope is far too big. In a couple of months' time when we come back there's going to be so much, unless we sit here until 10pm every night, I don't think we'll get it all done."

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