At Sheffield’s Full Council meeting on 8th September 2021, Councillor Ruth Milsom brought a notice of motion calling on the government to adopt the Right To Food in its National Food Strategy, and committing the city council to developing a citywide Access To Food Plan, bringing voluntary, charitable, and council partners together to maximise opportunityx, capacity and delivery to serve the tens of thousands living in poverty in Sheffield, including 1/4 of our children.

Scroll down to read the motion as carried.


RESOLVED: That this Council:-

(a) recognises that we are seeing a crisis of food poverty borne out of political choices and systemic failings from successive governments since austerity began;

(b) believes that food poverty should never be seen as inevitable, and notes that from 1997 to 2010 poverty reduced significantly (for instance the Institute for Fiscal Studies notes that the number of children in relative poverty fell by over 1.1 million from 1997-2010), showing that with sufficient political willpower these issues can be tackled;

(c) notes that after a decade of government-imposed austerity, child poverty and food hunger has increased significantly, and led to a precarious situation for many, even before the pandemic struck;

(d) believes that the pandemic has exacerbated problems and pushed more people into food poverty, with perhaps the worst yet to come, and though it is hard to quantify the extent of food poverty in Sheffield we know the following:-

(i) around 24,000 children are currently eligible for Free School Meals and therefore at risk of going hungry during the school holidays, with this number rising; and

(ii) according to data collected by Voluntary Action Sheffield from 19 food banks, between 13th April 2020 and 8th June 2020 the number of households supported increased by just over 92% from 1144 to 2202 households; it is well acknowledged that this does not represent the full picture of emergency food aid during this time – and shows supply, not level of need, which could be much higher;

(e) condemns the Government for the £20 per week cut to Universal Credit, which will come into effect from 6th October 2021, noting the following:-

(i) universal credit is claimed by more than 5.5 million households across the UK;

(ii) the Joseph Rowntree Foundation – a charity which researches poverty – states millions of households will face an income loss equivalent to £1,040 a year;

(iii) the charity Citizens Advice has warned that a third of people on Universal Credit will end up in debt due to the reduction, which will inevitably lead to more people being reliant on food banks; and

(iv) the 5-week wait for Universal Credit impacts people’s ability to pay bills and buy food, and believes that this wait is wholly unjustifiable and should be scrapped;

(f) calls on the Government to address the 5-week wait for Universal Credit, using its resources to reduce this to less than one week to stop families in Sheffield falling into a debt trap that they may not get out of;

(g) notes the plight of carers who have performed heroic efforts to look after our most vulnerable in society during the pandemic;

(h) also calls on the Government to raise the Carer’s Allowance by £1000 a year in line with the Universal Credit uplift, and not what this Council believes to be the insultingly low 5p a day announced in April, allowing our carers, many of whom are young people, to not slide into poverty, with recent research suggesting a third struggle to make ends meet;

(i) notes that the cross-party Overview and Scrutiny Management Committee established a working group to look at the Council’s response to Food Poverty in Sheffield, and that this first phase looked at the Council’s strategic role in relation to food poverty, and with organisations working in this space on food projects;

(j) believes that all recommendations from the Food Poverty Working Group’s report should be adopted in full;

(k) believes that, as noted in the Scrutiny Committee’s report, tackling food poverty requires a citywide effort, across the Council and public services, the VCF, communities and business, with a long term, structural approach to find lasting solutions and that, as such, the Council should adopt a Local Food Access Plan;

(l) believes that this would help the Council, community organisations and other partners to work together to identify risks, assess the current response and coordinate action, with an understanding that those involved can achieve more by acting together than they could by acting separately, and helping to strengthen ‘food poverty alliances’ (the many different networks in the city working to combat
food poverty and hunger);

(m) believes that tackling food poverty is not a standalone issue and is underpinned by wider socio-economic factors, and as such the development of a Food Access Plan must be part of the Council’s forthcoming Poverty Summit, which will in turn lead to the development of co-ordinated work to tackle inequality in the city;

(n) gives its support to The Right to Food campaign, a national campaign which argues that the 11 million people in food poverty should be central to this strategy, and that ‘Right to Food’ should be enshrined into law – clarifying government’s obligations on food poverty and introducing legal avenues to hold government bodies accountable for violations;

(o) calls for the ‘Right to Food’ to be incorporated into an amendment to the forthcoming Government White Paper in response to the National Food Strategy, and asks the Leader of the Council to write to the Government to make this case;

(p) commits to developing a Food Strategy linking the need to reduce carbon to meet climate change targets and boosting biodiversity to protect nature, along with developing a wellbeing economy and improving health equality across the city;

(q) notes that research evidence shows that urban agriculture provides many benefits in addition to food provision; and these include:-

  • Improving human health through physical exercise and a more nutritious diet
  • Mental health benefits of being outside and engaging in community
  • Protecting soil, improving soil quality, and maintaining carbon storage in soil
  • Improving and enhancing biodiversity
  • Increasing food supply resilience against climate and economic events
  • Reducing food miles and food waste
  • Supporting plant genetic diversity
  • Reducing urban heat island effects
  • Paid employment and training opportunities
  • Community empowerment
  • Reducing poverty
  • Improving community cohesion
  • Feeding urban communities sustainably

(r) commits to working with local organisations like ShefFood, Heeley City Farm, FoodWorks, the University of Sheffield, and others, to develop a Food Strategy to support a rapid increase in urban and peri urban food production;

(s) will seek to protect the use of greenbelt land around Sheffield for sustainable agriculture and nature;

(t) notes that there are now 2,000 food banks across the UK, and believes that in the 6th richest country in the world this is an absolute disgrace;

(u) notes that food bank usage has increased during the pandemic, but the preceding decade of austerity meant millions of people were already needing to rely on them – for example, 1.6 million emergency food parcels were distributed by the Trussell Trust in 2019;

(v) believes that main reasons for referrals to food banks are changes made since 2010 to the benefit system – including payment cuts, delays to benefit payments, and punitive benefit sanctions – as well as the rise of increasingly insecure work
and in-work poverty;

(w) calls on the Government to commit to eradicate food bank usage within three years and reduce usage by half within 12 months; and

(x) thanks all food banks in Sheffield for their work, and commits to doing everything we can to support them in their invaluable work for communities.

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