The measure of a community is surely how it reaches out to those in need of support, to the vulnerable or those in need?
For so many now, just getting by is a struggle. The BBC reported recently that food prices are rising at their fastest rate for 45 years – by 16.2% in the year to October, up from 14.6% in September. The cost of basic food items, such as cheese, eggs and milk, were surging. Energy and fuel costs also rose sharply, pushing overall inflation to 11.1%, the highest figure for 41 years.
Rising prices are hitting poorer households hardest – the Office of National Statistics says that they spend about half of income on food and energy, compared to around a third for those in middle incomes.
No wonder Helen Dickinson, CEO of the British Retail Consortium, is reported saying “Winter looks increasingly bleak as pressure on prices continues unabated” – or Rachel Reeves, Labour Shadow Chancellor, that rising prices will “strike fear into the hearts of families across Britain”.
Yet, in Swanage, the initiative I mentioned in an earlier column (“We Must Ensure No Child Goes Hungry”, Edition 277) has shown our community is ready to stand up. Just six weeks after food campaigners and Cllr Debby Monkhouse, met at Java Coffee Shop to say something must be done, “Food for Thought Purbeck” has been set up under the umbrella of the Swanage and Purbeck Development Trust.
A steering group, composed of town councillors, community organisations, churches and schools, has been set up to oversee the initiative. A grant has been obtained from Dorset Council, whose community engagement officer has welcomed the project.
Research, confirmed by Dorset Council’s own analysis, clearly confirms the need for “Food for Thought” in Swanage and Purbeck. In order to ensure a response which is timely and immediate, contact has been made with FareShare, a charity recycling good quality surplus supermarket food.
From January 2023, a FareShare Mobile Larder will visit Swanage once a week. FareShare members will be able to buy good quality food at a low cost, for example a bag of 20 items for a family of 4 or more will cost £5. Initially membership of FareShare will be offered to families through schools. Food for Thought volunteers can signpost attendees to CAB for further support if needed.
Contact has been made with all four schools in Swanage, and also with schools in Langton and Corfe. Headteachers, keen to offer a good deal to their families, have already requested more memberships than one mobile Larder can accommodate. Many of our local schools already go the extra mile to pay for breakfast clubs out of shrinking budgets. Further contact with FareShare has indicated we may be able to secure a second mobile Larder.
As Anne Frank said, “No one has ever become poor by giving”.
Chair, Swanage & Rural Purbeck Labour Party