The water laps, and even when it does not lap there is always the possibility. It comes in and overtakes. You worry when it rains and you cannot always predict the damage the rain will do.
When it happens what you have is destroyed. The water permeates and rots the foundation. The damp and disease it carries invades your body. It leaves its traces on the walls. You try to clean the muck and grime from your memories and the material objects that hold them. You think you have it all cleaned up, but then it happens again.
People ask, “Why you don’t leave the flood plain and go up the mountain?” To them, where you live is a choice. Choice is a myth, it is a privilege actually only afforded to a few.
It takes resources and stamina to go up the mountain. You are out of both. It would also mean leaving those things and people behind, whom you have come to love. Those you know you can depend upon. It doesn’t feel like there is room for everyone up the mountain. Besides, they do things differently up there. Living on the side of the mountain requires its own skills and knowledges. You don’t feel you would belong.
This is what it is like to live in poverty in the UK today. A wealthy country, where the people who have gossip in the isles of the supermarket as they choose between buying the whole salmon or the pork roast because they can practice thrift and get three meals by bulk cooking. For those who are struggling financially, the choice is much more stark–“should we get frozen pizza or the micro burgers“. A whole salmon or pork roast is not even an option as it would eat up the whole month’s food budget. What would you eat for the rest of the month. “We will get the pizza. Everyone likes pizza and it will last in the freezer until we need it.If we add a few mushrooms it is also more healthy compared to the micro burger. If we add a bit of tomato sauce it will also taste a bit better.” Pizza is self contained. It does not go to waste. It fills up your family and you can carry it home easily. This is how to practice thrift when your budget is stretched.
We need to repair our social welfare system and our community infrastructures in order to provide a defenses against the impacts of poverty on our neighbours and communities. This system acts like the flood defenses and can prevent future and further damage. But it does not repair the damage wrought by previous breaches. Nor does it help these households and communities settle on higher ground. We start by protecting but we should not stop there. Everyone deserves to be able to feel secure and to be able to define what that security looks like.
I recently wrote a piece for an online journal called Impakter making the argument that we need to do more than just admonish people to change their diets and that for those in low-income communities this change can be particularly difficult. This is the text, which initially appeared on Impakter… Continue reading →
Everyday food insecurity is more than just a lack of access to food based on income. Poverty creates a hole that has emotional and nutritional effects, as well as implications for community cohesion. Food insecurity as it intersects with poverty also materialises in places to produce landscapes where food availability and the social connections it enables are scarce (for an open-access paper see Blake 2019). Poor foodscapes contribute to vulnerabilities to the shocks associated with limited food choices, which in turn reduces the resilience of places and people by producing want, poor health, social isolation, and fear and distrust of one’s neighbours. The Food Ladders approach seeks to overcome these place-based aspects of vulnerability by developing positive engagements through food and ultimately aims to help communities become the places where people want to live, raise their children, and grow old. Continue reading →
One in every five people in the UK today are living in poverty – that is, living with a household income below 60% of the median national income when housing costs are considered. And according to recent research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, two thirds of children in poverty live in a working family. These rates are expected to increase sharply by 2021-22, assuming there is no change in government policy. Continue reading →
I’ve uploaded the (nearly) final report from the project onto my academia.edu account if you are interested in reading it. I welcome feedback on the content. I would also really like to know if it gets used and helps to inform action or policy at local levels. For either of these, or if you are struggling to download a copy, leave a message and I will get back to you.
Here is the synopsis of the report:
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 are likely to contribute further to these inequalities, but there also may be opportunities for improving diets.
⇒ 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 contributing 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.
This research was funded by ESRC IAA award number R/145185