WI attacks Government over food poverty

THE NATIONAL Federation of Women’s Institutes (NFWI) last week launched a nationwide campaign to confront the Government over the crisis of food poverty.

The campaign was launched work with an event in Westminster on 28th February, with a panel that includes the Chair of the Work and Pensions select committee, Frank field MP, as well as the founder of Magic Breakfast, Carmell McConnell MBE.

figures published at the end of January by End Hunger UK revealed how one in six adults has skipped meals because of being cash-strapped. One in 12 have gone a whole day without eating because of lack of money.

At the NFWI panel discussion, High Peak Labour MP Ruth George highlighted how changes to tax credits distribution were affecting the budgets of some of Britain’s most vulnerable families.

The event was the first step in a national debate on food poverty, with Women’s Institute (WI) members across the country in 6,000 branches organising local events to look into how the issue affects people in their communities and nationally.

The WI has a long history of campaigning on food. The supply of food to the war-torn nation was central to the early activities of the 103-year-old organisation, and since then the challenges of ensuring a sustainable food supply, tackling poverty and protecting the environment have remained close to WI members’ hearts.

The WI recently supported a private members bill that called for the provision of free meals and activities for children in the school holidays to tackle the problem of holiday hunger.

Speaking before the launch event, Lynne Stubbings, Chair of the NFWI, said: “People in communities across the UK are going hungry and struggling to buy the good nutritious food they need.

“I know that the WI has the power to make positive change. From standing up for dairy farmers to ensure they receive a fair price for their milk, to pushing the Government to launch a national pollinator strategy to protect the health of our bees, WI members know how to get things done. “This work follows on from our pioneering Great Food Debates project, which saw WIs and county federations organise over 100 food discussion events in 2013 and 2014 to consider the issue of the country’s food security.

“I firmly believe that greater public engagement in the issue of food poverty is key, and as an organisation with deep roots in education and our communities, the WI can have a big role helping to promote public engagement with the challenges and opportunities we face in securing sustainable food for all.”

At the launch event Lynne Stubbings said: “At the WI we don’t shy away from pushing the Government. We’re asking the Government to make a difference and to measure food poverty, the scale of the problem and publish the data as to why so many people are in food poverty.” The group is also calling for the creation of a ministry dedicated to overseeing the issue of food poverty. Carmel McConnell MBE, founder and CEO of Magic Breakfast, a charity providing healthy breakfasts during term time to more than 31,000 children at over 470 schools in England, said: “I am excited to hear that the WI is getting its teeth into the problem of food poverty. With thousands of local groups across the country, and hundreds of thousands of passionate members, I think they can play a big role in increasing public awareness of the problem of food poverty.

“We know that food poverty affects many children, damaging their academic attainment — more than half a million arrive at school too hungry to learn, a shocking fact in the sixth richest economy. That’s why my organisation Magic Breakfast provides healthy food to 31,000 hungry schoolchildren every day without price or stigma to ensure no child is too hungry to learn.” Denise Bentley, CEO and co-founder of the first Love Foundation, which runs Tower Hamlets Foodbank, said: “Millions of people across the UK are being plunged into food crisis through no fault of their own, and as a society we are still yet to witness the full impact this is having on our now most vulnerable people.

“If we want to see a society where people are able to move out of poverty and are enabled to live sustainable, independent and healthy lives, then tackling the root causes of food poverty is therefore crucial. “I warmly welcome the WI’s call to make tackling food poverty a priority and hope that this will serve as the call to action that is needed.”