Today’s Star columnist: David Edwards

David Edwards is a writer who lives in Sheffield and runs the Words Count agency in the city.
David Edwards is a writer who lives in Sheffield and runs the Words Count agency in the city.
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I grew up hearing stories of the Great Depression when my grandmother shared the family’s food with neighbours who couldn’t afford a meal.

In an era of relative prosperity these tales seemed like ancient history, but hungry children and families are again part of our daily experience.

The UK has signed up to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states: ‘everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for their health and well-being… including food.’

Meanwhile our government pursues austerity policies and cuts benefits, so living with hunger has become the norm for 40 per cent of children in poorer areas and one in 10 of our elderly are at risk of malnutrition.

In Sheffield there are 16 food banks supporting thousands of people who would otherwise go hungry.

However, whilst the city has not escaped the food crisis which is now apparent across the country, Sheffield is also emerging as a centre for new thinking and innovation on food justice.

On November 7 practitioners, academics, businesses, policy-makers and community organisations came together in Sheffield for Decent Helpings: Setting a local and regional agenda for food justice. Issues covered included the impact of supermarket policies on local food suppliers, the potential for growing food in public spaces and initiatives to provide healthy meals for children during school holidays.

To build on these Sheffield University will shortly be introducing an MA in Food Security and Food Justice, which will cover global, national and local issues.

The university is seeking help from public, private and voluntary organisations to work with MA students in two areas. Firstly, to understand how community- based organisations can have an impact on access to healthy food, and secondly to share and promote good practice already under way in the city.

It is easy to think we can’t do anything about local food poverty other than offer emergency support. While there needs to be national and international change, we should not overlook local change, giving people back some control over their access to healthy food. If your organisation is interested contact m.blake@sheffield.ac.uk.