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New report finds London councils with strong food foundations better equipped for quick response to Covid-19

Based on a survey to London's local authorities, the report shows how responses to covid-19 were strongly influenced by the plans, partnerships and strategic approaches in place enabling strong emergency food response and recovery planning. It also highlights how the pandemic has created positive action in many areas. 

This year the Response, Resilience and Recovery: London’s food response to Covid-19 report replaces and combines the annual Good Food for London and Beyond the Food Bank reports, published by Sustain's London Food Link teamCouncils responded to questions covering food-related themes, including partnerships, access to healthy food, growing and the food economy as well as healthier catering and the climate and nature emergency. 

The report finds where strong food foundations were in place before the Covid-19 pandemic, by and large this enabled a stronger, more resilient food response to the pandemic.

In particular strong leadership was seen in Croydon, Greenwich, Islington, Lambeth, Lewisham Southwark, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest. 

Good practice was shown by Newham*, Hammersmith & Fulham*, Barking and Dagenham*, Camden, Hackney, Merton, Bromley, Hounslow, Haringey, and Brent. Those marked with a star (*) have undertaken particularly significant new work on food too. 

"What we can see is that many of the councils with an established history of supporting cross-cutting action on food were better-placed to quickly respond to hunger and food insecurity caused by the pandemic. While the pandemic is an extraordinary event, all local authorities need a joined-up approach to ensureall residents have fair access to good food and that we are creating resilience for any future challenges."  

Sarah Williams, Programmes Director, Sustain 

The research also found that the conditions created by the pandemic have, in a significant number of cases, engendered positive action on food, especially in terms of new partnerships and ways of working between councils and the voluntary and community sector. However, the report also highlights evidence of over-reliance on voluntary and community organisations by councils that are also over-stretched. Encouragingly, many councils have realised or renewed their commitment to supporting a diverse and resilient food system. 

"Where councils have existing policies or services in place, during times of crisis these can be scaled up so that support reaches those who need it, quickly. Given that in the first lockdown we heard reports of foodbanks facing 500, 600% increases in demand, or of older people unable to get food for days, it's vital that food resilience is in place in all areas. London must be prepared for potential future shocks including any fallout from Brexit or the heightening impacts of the climate emergency." 

Morven Oliver-Larkin, London Food Poverty Campaign Coordinator, Sustain 

The report calls on London councils to take a number of actions including supporting and investing in a food poverty alliance or food partnership, taking a cash-first approach to tackling food poverty, supporting local food production, as well as working with smaller and medium size retailers and markets to increase access to healthy and sustainable food.

Read the full report 

The report was funded by Trust for London and the Mayor of London. 

Find out how your council fared in the themes covering Food Partnerships, Food Access, and specifically Children’s Food Access, Cash First approaches, Food Growing, Good Food Economy and Climate Change.  More info in the full report

Published Thursday 26 November 2020

London Food Link: London Food Link brings together community food enterprises and projects that are working to make good food accessible to everyone in London to help create a healthy, sustainable and ethical food system for all.

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