Last month Ben Pearson, Food Power's Empowerment Officer, and Dr Kayleigh Garthwaite, University of Birmingham and Independent Food Aid Network trustee, facilitated a workshop on food justice and food security to explore the need for global solidarity with a group of individuals with lived experience of food poverty who live on the Byker Estate in Newcastle.
The Global Solidarity Alliance for Food Justice and Food Security was formed in September 2019 with colleagues from the United States and Canada when Ben and Kayleigh, as well as Heather and Penny from Byker attended the Closing the Hunger Gap Conference in North Carolina, USA.
The alliance is working on A Manifesto for Food Justice and Food Security which will call for those experiencing and at risk of food insecurity to be able to take a lead in determining and shaping the public policies and strategies used to improve these situations, embracing people with lived experience as core members of campaigns and organisations.
It’s evident, perhaps now more so than ever, that many of the issues those in poverty face are very similar whether in the UK, United States, Canada or beyond. It’s therefore important to ensure the voices of those with lived experience are listened to and heard, and that the manifesto relates and engages those at the grassroots along with academics and those working in the sector.
At the workshop there was a lively discussion, covering a range of topics from human rights to race, capitalism to climate. One message that was loud and clear from the group was that "If social security benefits were paid to an acceptable level for people to live, we wouldn’t have food insecurity," as one participant put it.
For attendees that meant "enough money so you don’t have to attend hand outs for food and clothing, having a choice where to buy food, and an adequate education system to enable people to learn how to cook." Food charity was seen to be neither dignified nor a long term solution by those who attended; they felt that "money needs to be shared more equally." The attendees talked about how ‘do gooders’ and the need to ‘feel grateful’ often causes feelings of both anger and embarrassment. "They make you feel like you’re worthless" said one attendee.
One participant talked about how "people who have got don’t give a screw", with persistent inequality lying at the root of persistent food insecurity. As we are seeing in the current COVID-19 pandemic people are uncertain over the future and even more people will become food insecure. This is perhaps an opportunity or ‘canny idea’ for many more of us to come together in solidarity, building a movement to tackle the underlying causes of poverty. Penny Walters a workshop participant and campaigner with lived experience said "Bringing people together from different backgrounds to do workshops and have discussions brings a broader view, and could bring about a wider range of solutions."
Ben and Kayleigh hope to continue the conversation with grassroots activists and those with lived experience of poverty over the coming months and will explore ways in which those with lived experience can get involved online.
For furhter information regarding the Global Solidarity Alliance for Food Justice and Food Security please contact Ben Pearson.
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