THE borough council has committed to tackling food insecurity in the Borough head-on, following the findings of a specially commissioned report to identify what actions could help reduce the issue while addressing the root causes.
Using national evidence, the study estimated that approximately 4,600 households in West Lancashire experienced food insecurity prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, including approximately 1,300 households that experienced severe food insecurity. The report also indicated that during the pandemic, these figures could have risen by up to 90%.
During a meeting of the Cabinet, it was agreed that the Council would adopt a range of measures, as recommended by the report, to combat the serious issue of food insecurity in West Lancs that includes the establishment of a cross-sector food insecurity forum to strengthen ties and support cross-sector co-ordination, with the forum committing to a sustainable and “dignified approach” to tackling food insecurity in the borough.
The proposed cross-sector forum would also consider the other opportunities identified within the research report to strengthen the approach to tackling what it a serious problem for many residents in West Lancashire.
Where applicable, the council has also vowed to work with partners to highlight the issues which cause food insecurity and their impact at both a regional and national level.
In a further move, it was also decided that the portfolio holder for communities and community safety should be appointed as Food Security Champion for West Lancashire.
Councillor Gareth Dowling, cabinet member for communities and community safety, said: "I'm pleased to have been appointed as Food Champion for the Council to show that this isn't simply words on a page and a short term aim, we are embedding the principle of tackling food insecurity within council structures for the long term through the adoption of the report's recommendations as well as a designated lead officer at senior management level.
"The report has been completed working closely with our food bank partners and local charities who have an intimate knowledge and experience in supporting our residents for which we all must say a massive thank you to them for keeping our residents and families fed, particularly in light of the additional challenges as a result of the pandemic and other issues around holiday free school meals, the universal credit uplift and rising cost of living.
"The next step now is to ensure the recommendations produce tangible outcomes in supporting our most vulnerable residents which our partners and I will be ensuring happens.
"We will now be speaking directly with Trussell Trust food banks, Evermoor Hub, Birchwood Centre and other community and charity groups with whom we have already done much work, to formalise a more strategic approach to tackling the root causes in addition to the invaluable support they provide through short term food packages and access to low cost groceries and prepared meals."