Plans to help more people across Stockton-on-Tees put a healthy meal on their table were approved by Councillors yesterday (July 15).
Stockton-on-Tees Borough Council’s Cabinet gave their support to a new Food Poverty Strategy after hearing an overview of the work taking place across the Borough by the Stockton-on-Tees Food Power Network (SFPN) – a host of Voluntary, Community and Social Enterprise (VCSE) organisations which currently work alongside the Council to eradicate food poverty.
As part of the Council’s ongoing commitment to reduce food insecurity, Cabinet also approved £60,000 funding to ensure that the SFPN can access the best quality surplus food and provide equipment and food hygiene training for staff and volunteers. The funding will also pay for the purchase and running costs of a van which SFPN members and VCSE partners can use to collect and distribute food.
Councillor Bob Cook, Leader of the Council, said: “Good food is a right, not a privilege and everyone should be able to eat healthily every day, no matter who they are, what they do or where they live.
“We want our residents to be healthy, but we know for many it is a real struggle to provide enough nutritious food for themselves and their families. The reasons for this can really vary – from a long-term issue in someone’s life or a sudden change in circumstances.
“Sadly, food insecurity is a growing problem for thousands of people in Stockton-on-Tees and we have seen a 50 per cent rise in the numbers of food parcels distributed by local food banks in the last two years.
“That’s why we’re committed to doing all we can to tackle it through schemes such as our school holiday hunger programme which offers five-to-16 years olds healthy food alongside fun activities. We’ve funded a £900,000 programme for 2021/22 and plans for the summer holidays are well under way.
“We also work hard to make sure that everyone entitled to free school meals and healthy start vouchers are aware of the support on offer. It’s good to know that we have some of the highest level of take up by those eligible in the country.
“We will continue to join forces with VCSE partners to look for new and innovative ways to combat food poverty – helping people afford tasty and nutritious food which not only improves their wellbeing but is sustainable too.
“With this £60,000 investment we aim to both solidify and coordinate the work which is already taking place plus take a step forward to make sure that the SFPN and our VCSE partners have what they need practically to help those most in need.”