Having lived in Morden for many years, attending the first quarterly Merton Food Poverty Action Plan meeting on 28th June opened the door into the hidden world of Merton Council (and yes it actually was interesting and not as those dry ‘fly on the wall’ programmes would have you believe!).
Stepping into the council room I had no idea that the GLA is assisting Merton with funds into the development of a Food Poverty Action Plan, nor that the level of work undertaken in this area was so advanced, with three strategic aims already having been established and centring around stakeholder coordination, reducing food wastage/using surplus and strengthening community volunteering.
The sheer volume of groups and teams working within this area was something of a surprise (who knew so many people cared?!); from the London Borough of Merton to Wimbledon Food Bank and Merton Voluntary Service Council (to name a few!), plus Sustainable Merton chairing the whole thing (how could i forget?!).
An interesting presentation by Merton Council’s Phillip Williams kicked off the meeting and with commissioned research illustrated the scale of income inequality between the east and west of Merton; with 27% of those employed in the east of the borough earning under £20,000, coupled with a Merton-wide food bank usage increase of 33% between 2015/16 to 2016/17. After this background it was comforting to hear so many of the tasks to achieve the aims of the action plan were already being worked on with breast feeding initiatives having being rolled out, a ‘Healthy Start’ programme targeting retailer buy-in being actioned and an ‘Eat Right’ pilot in six schools having seen such an increase in school meal uptake that a larger scale rollout is being planned.
As an outsider to the world of politics I will follow Merton’s ambitious action plan aims and tasks with interest and hope that moving forward the whole of the community gets the opportunity to be aware of all the passion and hard work being undertaken to address borough inequalities.
Paula Cottrell, Community Champion
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