Exmouth: Food insecurity and Littleham Community Fridge | Opinion

  Posted: 22.10.21 at 11:45 by Councillor Bruce de Saram (Exmouth Littleham Ward)

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In this month’s article as we head into late autumn, when sadly the clocks go back and winter approaches, I am going to write about food insecurity in our Littleham community.

We know from a study of history that food has played an important role in society as far back as 1789 when it was suggested that Marie Antoinette was reported to have said, when told that the peasants had no bread, 'Then let them eat brioches' (Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Confessions).

We know it’s still relevant today in 2021 as it was then from our emerging Council Plan which has a link to it when it talks about the need to 'create and implement a poverty strategy to reduce hardship and inequality in the district and implement the actions in the Public Health Strategy designed to improve public health, wellbeing, and the quality of life of our residents.'

Readers might ask: "How does food insecurity come about?" Well, the answer is that it comes about when people tend to skip meals or skip keys bits from their diet because of reduced resources or poverty which takes us back to our Council Plan.

We in East Devon are fortunate that because of the Covid situation in March 2020, a range of community organisations and councils worked together to assist up to 60,000 people who were shielding in Devon, including the provision of food for many.

Since then, councils have funded a range of food organisations, and set up research and food networks to learn more about the local food support system for those in need. The ultimate objective of this work is to understand food issues in Devon so that Devon County Council and its Team Devon partners continue to provide a consistent approach to welfare.

Rev Sam Burnett speaking with Cllr Bruce de Saram outside Bidmead Community Centre

This would involve looking at the shared principles and hardships in Devon and the willingness to develop a common offer across the districts to get things like food banks working more effectively in a consistent way. Furthermore, evidence suggests that the most vulnerable families are not always able, or choosing to, access the support available locally.

The Social Market Foundation recently suggested that to formulate a sustainable approach the government must consider 'devolving responsibility and funding for on the ground food distribution to local authorities as they have the local knowledge, relationships and facilities necessary to cover the ‘last mile’ of food distribution' and this is what is currently happening here in East Devon, as was reported back to the EDDC Poverty Working panel last month, which I sit on.

The landscape of food support providers in the county is complex and has changed considerably since the beginning of the pandemic. The conventional foodbanks, one per town, are obvious stakeholders, but there are numerous smaller and newer groups, especially in rural areas. There are also many other organisations who include food support as one of a wider range of activities and are therefore, less easily identified.

Currently, we can identify five main types, though there is some overlap between these categories: Traditional emergency foodbanks, mutual aid pandemic response, food waste community larders/fridges, community agriculture and enterprise, and lastly community organisations .

Here in Littleham, we are very fortunate to have our own Community Fridge set up by the Baptist Minister Rev Sam Burnett which was officially reopened this August in response to the continuing local needs. It has been set up with three objectives, which are:

1. To reduce the amount of food wasted.
2. To support the local community.
3. To help tackle the issues around Food Poverty which includes food insecurity.

With its unique slogan ‘Give what you can, take what you need’, Rev Sam hopes that the way the fridge works is pretty simple. If people have extra then they can bring it to the fridge, if people need some of the food, then they are welcome to come and take some.

The fridge is part of the East Devon Food Hub and works together with other local food poverty initiatives to make sure that people are being supported all across the region, we receive a large amount of food from the FareShare South West scheme which gives short-dated food that supermarkets can’t sell, to stop them going to landfill.

As Sam says: "Littleham is a great community and people here look out for each other, the fridge is tapping into that spirit by working together, we can reduce the amount of food going to waste and take better care of our planet.

"There are no questions asked, if you want to come and use the fridge then it is here and the team would love to welcome you.“

The fridge always needs more volunteers, so if you would like to help out or just want more information then please contact Rev Sam on 07902 217228

It is open Wednesday 3-5pm, Thursday 9-11am and Friday 4-6pm. It is located at the Bidmead Centre EX8 2PG.

I may add that all this much needed support is in keeping with the council’s objectives and helps us in the fight against food insecurity.

However, I would end this article on a note of caution because these inflated levels of funding for emergency food support cannot endure, and producers are obliged to be reducing food waste substantially over the coming years.

Readers need to consider what happens when this bubble inevitably bursts, which it may well do through this change in approach. In a situation of greater scarcity, the fact that community larders and such like do not prioritise people in need (despite estimating that a substantial proportion of their users might fall into this category), could become a future problem which may need to be addressed, which is why a consistent approach to this is required as has been touched on earlier.

If you would like to contact your councillor, please click here.

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