15 & 16
OCT 2024

15 & 16
OCT 2024

Tackling food injustice in Birmingham

Tackling food injustice in Birmingham

By John Millichap

Born in Birmingham at the height of the pandemic in 2020, the Food Justice Network (FJN) continues to play a crucial role providing emergency food aid for some of the city’s most vulnerable citizens. Today, in the face of soaring demand and spiralling costs, many of the food banks and community cafes that make up the network are finding it increasingly difficult to stay open. For individuals and families that depend on its support, the consequences of closure could be disastrous.

Birmingham is rightly known as one of the UK’s most exciting food cities. It has thriving indie restaurant and street food scenes and the most Michelin stars outside of London, but this exists alongside some of the worst levels of hunger in the country. More than two fifths of residents (43%) live in areas ranked among the top 10% most deprived in the UK. Putting food on the table is a battle for many and it’s the reason why the Food Justice Network is important.

The FJN today includes around 300 organisations. Many of these are neighbourhood operations run by committed local residents. Much of the food they provide is either surplus, donated by members of the public or from local supermarkets, distributors and wholesalers via the FareShare network. At the height of lockdown, the FJN oversaw the distribution of more than 10 tonnes of food aid a week, in the form of hot meals and food parcels. 

The health crisis has now passed for most people, but food insecurity continues to increase. Higher food prices, on top of falling wages, on top of growing unemployment mean that many people are now unable to afford basic food essentials. And it’s not just the unemployed who have turned to food banks. Despite bumper private sector wage increases in 2023, many low and middle-income families find their pay packets have less buying power than a year ago. For some, a food bank or food pantry is the only way to make ends meet. 

The same pressures that drive need are also stretching the capacity of FJN members. As supermarkets squeeze their supply chains, less surplus food is available. And with energy and food costs likely to remain high, the struggle to stay open has reached crisis levels. New sources of food and funding are urgently needed. With autumn upon us, the call is going out to businesses across Birmingham and the West Midlands to step up and pledge their support.

Foodbanks are not a long-term solution to food insecurity. That much is clear. But until a solution is found, they will continue to be a critical lifeline for those at the cliff edge of the cost-of-living crisis. News from the Trussell Trust this year of a 33% jump in the number of emergency food parcel recipients hints at the desperate struggle many families now face on a day-to-day basis.

Please scan the QR code to donate to the Birmingham Food Justice Network Just Giving campaign. Thank you.


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