Sustain has worked on food poverty for many years, or what we now prefer to call equal access for everybody to good food.
Originally, Sustain ran the Food Poverty project. This evolved into the Food Access Network (FAN-UK), which then evolved again into the Local Action on Food Network. These archive project update pages give background information on the activities of the Food Access Network, which worked to tackle diet-related ill health amongst the UK’s most disadvantaged communities. By addressing the underlying causes of food poverty, it aimed to ensure that everyone in the UK has access to healthy, affordable food – regardless of their income, age or social exclusion. Below is a summary of our approach.
Success stories abound
Across the UK there are many approaches being developed – both innovative and well-established - to improve the health and wellbeing of disadvantaged communities. The community food projects carrying out this inspiring work have learned a wealth of useful lessons that could enable other projects across the UK to achieve similar success in their own communities. However the reality is that projects tend to be relatively disconnected from the work happening elsewhere in the UK. While there is no one-size-fits all solution to food poverty – as a locally experienced problem it requires locally tailored solutions – many solutions are similar and so could be shared. Working through the Food Access Network is a great way to share them.
Many community food projects start life on a shoe-string budget as a community response to particular local issues that have arisen. As a result, projects often do not have enough time or money to expand their work or integrate into local government policy. However, with the right know-how projects could get their work included in Local Area Agreements, Local Strategic Plans and other similar plans, which might lead to longer term funding. Such funding could then allow projects to reach out to more people in the community, develop effective partnerships, strengthen community ownership of food poverty solutions and embed those solutions into local government policy.
Sharing local solutions
The Food Access Network helped projects become more successful and develop longer term solutions. Food poverty projects are keen to hear about what each other are trying and why things are and aren’t working. The network shared these lessons to stimulate more successes and – we hope – avoid some pitfalls.
From 2006 to 2008, the Food Access Network coordinated a series of events across the UK, known as UK Food Liaison, to share information between projects from across Scotland, Wales, England, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.
In July 2006 representatives from community food projects across the UK and the Republic of Ireland met for the first UK liaison event, ‘Spreading Success, Sharing Solutions’. Fifty participants from these countries came together in Birmingham to share experiences and good practice and learn about each others’ work. There were presentations from representatives of each country’s food access networks and a choice of workshops covering issues around continuity, working in partnership, monitoring and evaluation and the relationship between local initiatives and central Government policy.
Feedback confirmed a demand for more of these events, with the workshops and opportunities to discuss knowledge, skills and the daily challenges faced by those working on community food projects being particularly popular. The UK Food Liaison, web pages share the presentations and workshop notes from these events.