SHOWCASE PRESENTATION: FOOD PROJECTS
Presentation – George Thomas, Beechwood Community Trust, Luke O’Dowd, Gautby Road Play and Community Centre and Eve Barrett, St James’ Centre.
Eve Barrett of the St James Centre reported on activity in Birkenhead. Over summer 2018 Birkenhead provided 10,000 meals for over 900 individual children. The importance of both providing good quality meals and activities for families, and of collecting data to show impacts, had been recognised. Christmas had seen St James provide 63 hampers to local residents, while Gautby Road had fed a Christmas dinner to 85 children over the festive period. A video providing feedback on February half term activities, which had seen over 220 individual children and young people use services, was shown.
The Committee was advised that the previous year had seen a growth in partnership working, collaboration and co-ordinated efforts and timetables. While the growth in the number of projects was a positive, this presented a challenge by putting financial pressure on projects overall. A growth in the number of people, including parents, accessing projects had also been seen. Further funding to support this would be needed, for example, through partnership bids.
For the future, the outcome of a bid to the Department for Education to fund projects across Wirral for holiday provision using the Birkenhead model food hubs was due at the end of March. Regardless of whether the funding is allocated, a start had been made to establish a Birkenhead and Wirral-wide approach to food insecurity, including a community food provider list, training offers and connections to lifelong learning to support parents’ continuing education with the aim of creating more than just a ‘sticking plaster’ approach to food insecurity.
George Thomas of the Beechwood Community Trust advised that the Trust was involved with the His Church charity, received food from Fair Shares and, through the Constituency Committee, had received 46 pallets of food, putting £48,000 of value back into the community. He noted that government figures for foodbank usage came primarily via the Trussell Trust, meaning that provision from many smaller providers was not counted. It was suggested that foodbank usage might be at least double that indicated by official figures.
The Community Trust was looking at other issues of poverty beyond food poverty. As examples, assistance was being offered to families struggling with gas and electric supply and a low cost funeral option had been identified. 280 hampers, supported by local and Constituency money, had been distributed at Christmas, along with toys from a Radio City appeal. The Trust had developed a good working arrangement with the Constituency Committee and the partnership work had impacted on many local people.
A member of the public supported the identification of issues beyond food poverty, referencing community cohesion and the availability of support to counter issues such as knife and gang crime. In looking at these schemes, value for money needed to be considered not in terms of cash, but in ensuring that every child has a future. Reference was made to support to families also given by Birkenhead Lions, including a family found at Christmas with no food or presents for children. Referring to the consideration of the new model of community engagement, a Member noted the need to prioritise such schemes and ensure that impetus in this area was not lost.
RESOLVED: That Eve Barrett and George Thomas be thanked for their presentations to the Committee.