Food Poverty & Homelessness 2016-17
On the 11th of May 2016 we attended a ‘Food Poverty’ event at the St. George’s Centre in Leeds. The event was hosted by Leeds Food Aid Network (LFAN) & Feed Leeds. LFAN is an initiative that seeks to list various groups and services that are providing some level of food aid, thereby making it easier for groups to signpost people who require support. Prior to this event, we attended a related event on the 14th of March 2016 ‘Homeless Initiatives Gathering‘ hosted by ‘Unity in Poverty Action‘ & Light–House–Family. This event brought various outreach and support groups together under one roof and discussed some of the criticisms made against St. George’s Crypt (One of few gateways to homes for the homeless). Nevertheless, it seems our attendance of this meeting that eventually saw us listed with LFAN after being on their radar since at least 2014. Our attendance here also marks recognition that the Third Thursday of the of the Month is the Vegan Feast for Health & Wellbeing at the Mill Hill Chapel, despite overlapping with another LFAN listing. We a very proud of our partnership with the Mill Hill Unitarian Chapel and hope that we might bring additional Feasts for Health & Wellbeing across the City (also see project sos).
Food Poverty Events
Sonjia Woodcock of FeedsLeeds said the event was about food aid network and feed leeds coming together to really address the issues about food and sustainability and food poverty in the city.
The poster for the event indicated that it was a networking event encouraging discussion about food, poverty, waste growing, cooking and health. Numerous working groups were formed, and conversations in those groups were led by Dave Patterson (entrepreneur, LFAN), Sonjia Woodcook (VAL / Feed Leeds & Tom Bliss) on growing food in schools, Emma Strachan (Public Health) on Food & Health, Andy Goldwing (Permaculture) on Urban Growing, Gareth Batty (Fareshare Yorkshire) on food waste and food surplus, Chris Fields (CEO St. George’s Crypt) on how people can cook on a budget.
Sonja explained the event was keen to capture as much info from the discussions as possible as to move forward to developing a strategic approach to food poverty.
Dave said that FAN had found people turning to foodbanks due to an increase in delays to benefits, sanctions and the substantial cost of rising food prices. See video, the report begins around 4.20 minutes into it. Also read this article in the Yorkshire Evening Post “scandal of rising number of Leeds families grappling with food poverty problems”
There is growing interest in groups that seek to facilitate food growing activities, we are delighted to see that Leeds Food Aid Network see the importance of growing and preparing clean organic food for the people, not only for the health benefits but as a way of ensuring food security.
More recently, on the 1st of February we attended a talk on Ending Homelessness, see the full talk below, and yesterday (2nd of February) we were present a LFAN meeting at St. Georges Centre (to be updated). While the majority appeared conservative in their responses to refugees and asylum seekers Dave Patterson was adamant that groups should be supportive of migrants, likewise Alan from Lincoln Green Network.
Ending Homelessness or Keeping People on the Streets
Food Poverty, Food Scarcity, or Food Inequality?
What is food poverty? Could this be to do with feeding billions of tonnes of food to animals to be made into junk/processed food instead of creating nutrient rich plant based food for human consumption? It seems current practices in serving the needy and destitute particularly in food provision actually serves to reinforce what may be better described as food inequality, there is certainly no food lack/scarcity of food, there is however issues surrounding the quality and distribution of food. In some cases it would probably be more beneficial to people’s health to fast than to consume the stodge dished out by the majority of group well intended groups. If so called professionals such as General Practitioners are ill informed about the ethics, risks and benefits associated with food then its of little wonder that food aid distributors are unfortunately reinforcing food inequality, poverty, and malnutrition of vulnerable persons. See links 1, 2 & 3 (to be updated).
Malnutrition seems to affect homeless people more than it does any other group, access to healthy food is limited when living on the streets with no means to prepare their own meals and only limited avenues by which to acquire food, their health suffers as a result. Therefore, it is doubly important when preparing food for the homeless to make extra effort not to lace it with salt, fat and sugar.
The best way to achieve this eliminate any animal derived products from their meals, and to ensure that whatever plant based meal is prepared tastes good. Plant based nutrition is a keystone not only for good health but also for a sustainable future. Homeless people have limited access to good tasting healthy plant based food, and we have a duty when providing them with food to make it healthy and wherever possible encourage them to eat healthily. Give food that contributes to recovery not ill health.
This is why, even if we choose not to live a cruelty free lifestyle we a should nevertheless get vegucated and serious about what we eat. Both cardiovascular disease and cancer accounts for 32% of the burden of disease in England. A wholesome plant based lifestyle practically eradicates the risk of heart problems and significantly reduces risks of cancer.
People living with challenging health and social problems such as being homeless or living in temporary accommodation, being long-term unemployed, living alone with no family or support, having alcohol or substance misuse problems or living in prisons and mental health hospitals – often experience the worst physical and mental health and are often the most excluded. Ecotherapy services have been remarkably successful in gaining the trust and commitment of people who do not engage with other health, social care or community services. Part of this success seems to be that people are not asked to join a health project but rather a practical activity that may help others and where they may learn something new.
Mental health problems account for 23% of the burden of disease in England. A recent study in London suggested that 41% of those who identified themselves as homeless also suffered with mental health problems. Mental health related problems are prevalent among homeless. Another important group of people affected by limited access to healthy food are people with disabilities, for similar reasons often depending on unhealthy sources of nutrition. We also aim to be of service to people who fall into this group. Nevertheless, our second key area applies to those who are homeless and also with learning disabilities.