Our focus for 2015-16 was food poverty through the Beyond the Food Bank campaign. We partnered with cities to tackle the root causes of food poverty, reverse the demand for emergency food assistance, provide a publicly-funded safety net for the most vulnerable and ensure that low-income households can afford and access good food. Rather than focusing on charity-based solutions, the campaign called on national and local government to take action to reduce food poverty.

Find out about the currently ongoing Food Power programme, legacy of Beyond the Food Bank campaign.

About the campaign 

The campaign helped cities to develop a more joined-up approach to tackling hunger and food poverty in their areas, through specific practical and policy interventions. The resources page highlights key initiatives taken by network members.

The campaign also had impact at a national level.

The network called on government to reduce the effects of food poverty on vulnerable groups caused by benefits sanctions and delays, signed by 30 Sustainable Food Cities Network members and more than 350 individuals and organisations, including Trussell Trust, Alexandra Rose Charities, FareShare and First Steps Nutrition Trust..

The SFC Network made a significant input into the second Feeding Britain report (2015) produced by an All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG). This led to those behind the report to invite the network to help ensure their focus on emergency food aid is part of a broader, more strategic and coherent long-term answer to the food poverty challenge, as well as helping to broaden the political debate beyond just food banks.

We also then established the UK Food Poverty Alliance with the majority of national organisations working to tackle food poverty, who had been named and tasked within the Feeding Britain report. This new alliance brings together most of the major national organisations working on food and poverty in the UK, including Fareshare, Magic Breakfast, Trussell Trust, Food Ethics Council, Food Foundation, Food Matters, Child Poverty Action Group, Oxfam, Nourish Scotland and others, and in consultation with the Church of England, the fledgling Emergency Food Network and other poverty experts. This alliance has formed as a result of five consultation workshops, run by Church Action on Poverty with the Sustainable Food Cities network and other groups in locations across the country during November 2015. Over 250 people from a diverse range of local food poverty organisations attended these events, in which participants were invited to identify the key issues they were facing locally and nationally; what kind of action they were interested in taking together; and who else needed to be involved.

Sustainable Food Cities’ food poverty work has served as a conduit between local and national efforts to address food poverty, including engagement with national policy. In particular, we believe that robust assessments of the local impact of national spending decisions can improve policy coordination between different levels of government. Many Sustainable Food Cities Network members have implemented innovative responses to food poverty. By sharing the impact of these interventions, local policymakers can influence the national debate on inequality and poverty. Some of the key areas where we have engaged with national policy include:

  • Collecting evidence of the impact of welfare reform on residents. Information about the impact of sanctions, delays in processing and low benefit levels is needed to fix holes in the safety net.
  • Making the case for the introduction of a sugary drinks tax to fund initiatives to improve children’s health, such as extending free school meals, holiday provision or breakfast clubs. Whilst this is beyond the decision of most local authorities, they can add their weight to call on government to introduce one. Not only has the national levy been adopted, but so too has the concept of ringfencing it for good causes including breakfast clubs, and potentially holiday food provision (see case study below).
  • Establishing a measure on food poverty. In order to understand the scale of the problem and inform the most appropriate solutions, we need national monitoring of food poverty. Local areas need more robust evidence on the areas of greatest need in order to prioritise spending decisions.

What now?

The work continues in a number of ways:

The resources page highlights key initiatives taken by network members. We will continue to update this.

Cities continue to develop food poverty action plans. We have produced a short guide to help areas build on the experiences of those who already have these plans.

Sustain is working on a number of issues at a UK and local level. These include calling on government to measure household food insecurity, promoting sustainable responses to specific issues, championing 21st century models for meals on wheels services and running the London food poverty campaign.

Soil Association’s Food for Life programme is working to improve access to affordable, healthy food outside of the home – making it possible for people to choose good food wherever and whoever they are. Food for Life has published guidance for schools to support them to alleviate the potential effects of food poverty in the school day.

The End Hunger UK campaign brings together local communities and a range of organisations to create a movement for government action to address food poverty.  


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk 

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