Coronavirus has brought food poverty locally ‘into sharp focus’

Extra emergency funding has been secured to help tackle food poverty across Derry & Strabane as we move into winter.

Tuesday, 17th November 2020, 8:09 am
MAY 2020 - Ciara Ferguson, Martin Connollly and Lorraine McWilliams who work in the Ballyarnett Community food distribution team. The responses of community and voluntary teams in helping to tackle food poverty across the north west was lauded at the meeting. Picture Martin McKeown 0720

The distribution of the additional £82,944 allocated to the Council by the Department for Communities through its Access to Food Fund has been confirmed, and follows the roll out of food boxes and other community-led supports to those in greatest need since March.

The matter was discussed at Derry City & Strabane District Council’s Health and Community Committee on Thursday evening.

Councillors were told that the latest funding would go in part towards shaping any future emergency response based on learnings to date.

£20,000 will go towards the Apex Living Centre in Derry, which runs the Foyle Foodbank. The rest will go towards Local Growth Partnerships with the Waterside/Faughan areas allocated £11,300; The Moor - £7,100; Foyleside - £7,100; Ballyarnett - £7,100, and Strabane/Sperrin/Derg - £30,344.

Since the Covid emergency began in March, Councillors were told, the local authority has been working closely with the Department and a network of local community and voluntary agencies to deliver urgent food aid through the Food Box Scheme.

Council’s Director of Health and Communities, Karen McFarland, said the pandemic had highlighted the need for a ‘Co-Design’ approach.

“Coronavirus has brought the issue of food poverty across Derry and Strabane into sharp focus revealing the vulnerabilities of many households here,” she said.

“Over the past few months we have seen for ourselves the fantastic work being done on the ground by organisations such as APEX Living Centre, the Churches Voluntary Trust and Strabane Community Project to tackle the issue in both urban and rural areas. They are already involved in the delivery of Food Banks and Social Supermarkets and are well placed to provide interventions in the area of food poverty.

“With the support of an additional wraparound service provided by Local Growth Partnerships to assess and process referrals within their respective neighbourhoods, as well as the support of organisations like Easilink Community Transport to assist with connectivity in more isolated areas, we can ensure a more targeted and efficient approach in each Community area.”

Vice Chair of the Health and Community Committee, Councillor Raymond Barr, said the new funding “will help to strengthen the network of support on the ground drawing on the expertise and experience of the organisations such as the social supermarkets who already deliver interventions in this area”.

He added: “It will also help us to develop a more cohesive approach to the problem, providing better support mechanisms for those in genuine need. We are still in the midst of a serious health crisis, and there will sadly be further fall out for local families who will require ongoing aid to sustain them through the months to come.”