The 2016 edition of “Beyond the Foodbank: London Food Poverty Profile”, published by Sustain and supported by the Mayor of London, recommends a co-ordinated response to address food poverty issues in London.
In December 2016, the GLA made funding available to support five London boroughs to develop a Food Poverty Action Plan, with the London Borough of Merton being successful in their application. Following this, the council's Public Health and Policy, Strategy and Partnerships teams contracted Sustainable Merton to help lead on developing the plan.
Aim of the Plan
1) To achieve a consistent, coordinated and strategic partnership approach to tackle people’s inability to afford, or to have access to, quality food for a healthy diet.
2) To make better use of surplus food and reduce food waste in the borough.
3) To strengthen, support and raise awareness of the strong active community and voluntary sector in Merton working to tackle food poverty locally.
A key aim is to build on the existing work of the strong active community and voluntary sector in Merton working to tackle food poverty locally, including improving sign-posting and the joining up of existing assets as well as reduce and re-use surplus food in the borough.
Our research has unearthed several food initiatives in the borough that already offer vital support to combat food poverty. Many of these rely heavily on help from volunteers.
It has also highlighted avenues where these projects could benefit from closer partnerships to achieve even more successful outcomes. We hope to engage organisations and residents further, through a drive to divert good food that is currently wasted, back into the community and to those who may need it.”
Developing the plan
Two successful consultation workshops run by Sustainable Merton in 2017 helped to inform the development of Merton's Food Poverty Action plan. From these, we were able to:
Analyse and better understand factors affecting food poverty
Map the needs of residents in the borough and the services currently on offer.
Connect a range of partner organisations to explore solutions
Engage local stakeholders as well as FareShare, Mayor’s Fund for London, Olio and Sustain to give their input and share experiences.
Food Poverty Operational Steering Group
Sustainable Merton was one of the key partners involved in establishing and leading Merton's Food Poverty Operational Steering Group in June 2018. The Group, currently led by Merton Council, aims to coordinate the implementation of the Action Plan.
The aim of this work is to develop and improve links between food providers and beneficiaries, make better use of surplus food, help to reduce food waste and increase volunteering in food poverty related groups.
At a recent meeting in February 2020, attendees agreed on a number of priorities for action. These included Healthy Start (targeting children), raising awareness of food poverty with businesses and residents, looking at who is giving surplus food to who, increasing food growing and addressing food hunger during school holidays. These all fit with Sustainable Merton's agenda and our plans to launch Merton's First Community Fridge.
The sheer volume of groups and teams working within the area of Food Poverty Action 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."
Beyond the Food Bank
In 2019, Merton was recognised as one of the top ten London boroughs leading the way in tackling food poverty in their area.
Sustainable Merton is proud to be a key partner in this work and we will continue to work with local residents and businesses to address the issues of food poverty and food waste within the Merton community.