Final report: Feeding Affordances and Decent Helpings

I am sharing here the final report for that I have written for a project that I did with Doncaster Council Public Health. The research with Doncaster examined some of the ways that community organizations help to support household and community food related resilience as well as considering how to build on the potential for local authority and third sector collaboration.

Download full report here: Decent Helpings Final Report

Overview

There is an emerging context of social support withdrawal as a result of funding withdrawal by central government is creating a context within which individuals, households and communities are having to increasingly seek support from third-sector organisations in the UK. This is happening through:

⇒ The introduction and eventual rollout of Universal Credit is contributing further to these inequalities, but there also may be opportunities for improving diets.

⇒ There is a squeeze on the abilities of local authorities to support their communities as local authority remits have expanded to include addressing diet-related public health and public health inequalities, which include health inequalities that arise out of food poverty. Local authorities will also become responsible for supporting the way in which individuals and families will have to cope with the transition to Universal Credit. At the same time, as local authority remits are expanding they are facing draconian cuts to their budgets such that there are staff reductions resulting in cuts to the capacity of the LA to deliver programmes.

⇒ There has been a rise in community and third-sector organisations who are concerned with helping to reduce health inequalities by helping to reduce food poverty.

Given the importance that resilience is playing in helping local authorities to resolve the gaps that austerity is creating, it is clear that more research is needed that examines the dimensions of resilience (adapting, coping, transforming). Specifically with regard to how:

⇒ Activities within these three areas can contribute to different scales of resilience (individual, household, community, and local authority area);

⇒ How collectively activities within an area contribute to a landscape of resilience enabling support.

A more collaborative approach may enable local authorities to better work with these third-sector organisations to best realise the possibilities that partnership could provide. Recommendations for more collaborative working are detailed in this report and are based on community-based research, participant observation, consultation with community organisations and local authorities, and the outcomes of a co-production workshop.

How the research came about

The project emerged from Festival of Social Sciences Decent Helpings event that I held where participants collectively identified areas where they felt further research was needed concerning the food and poverty nexus.  The event raised the questions and Doncaster wanted to pursue them locally.  This was supported by a workshop that drew participants from across the UK.

Impacts from the research

As a result of the research, I have had the opportunity to present the work to both academic and non-academic audiences, and was even on a BBC1 Sunday Morning Live episode in early September! I have drawn on the work to inform how I support a number of organisations, including the work I am doing with Greater Manchester Poverty Action.

Perhaps most importantly, Doncaster has taken the research forward though forming a Food Partnership with membership including community organisations and the public health and communities team.  This resulted in successful bid to become the 50th Sustainable Food City in the UK and the formation of Good Food Doncaster, which is now a charity organisation.  Good Food Doncaster has also won a Food Power grant, which is lottery funded and supported by Sustain and Church Action on Poverty (https://www.sustainweb.org/foodpower/about/).  With this Doncaster will develop a plan to address food scarcity and lack of access for low income residents, which is much needed as Doncaster has a large proportion of areas that are described as highly deprived.  This is very exciting as this will be a collaborative effort between the local authority and organisations working to support hunger in Doncaster through generating a more transparent network of organisations, by listening to communities, and by providing real action through collaboration.  This all started with input at the Decent Helpings event, so thank you.

More research and action needed

One final word about the report, while the project is finished, this is a rapidly changing landscape and requires further research and learning and action!  If you have comments on the document or if you find it useful for the work you are doing, I would very much like to know—please be in touch.

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