Eggcup is one of many organisations dealing with food poverty in Lancaster and Morecambe. Most people know about the two local food banks, Morecambe Bay Food Bank and The Olive Branch, which provide crucial, short-term support in a crisis. Eggcup and other food clubs use mostly intercepted food to provide longer-term support for people who are struggling or just about managing. There are community kitchens that, in non-Covid times, provide hot meals. And there are community gardens such as Claver Hill.
Eggcup is an active member of the Lancaster District Food Poverty Alliance, which brings these groups together. They have developed a five-year action plan to develop food provision. One aim is to move beyond just getting food to people in a crisis, towards communities organising local food provision.
One part of their planning is the idea of ‘food ladders’ with three rungs.
- The first rung is crisis provision, like the two food banks. There are always needed when someone loses their job, or has their Universal Credit sanctioned, or has moved out of their previous house and is getting set up. But they can only help for three weeks.
- The second rung is capacity building, making sure there is on-going support people who don’t have quite enough money for food, month after month, for instance those with part-time or uncertain jobs and constantly changing benefits. That is where Eggcup and other food clubs come in, using intercepted food, and other food from a buying coop, to supplement a household’s shop every week. They are often run by or with community groups, so people are more engaged in providing the food.
- The third rung is self-organising community change. That is where community organisations plan their own solutions, which could include community gardens and community kitchens. To reach that rung, people need to have experience with organisations, time and confidence to participate, and a network of other organisations doing similar things to provide support.
Covid-19 has disrupted community organisations, as it has disrupted everything else; for instance, food clubs couldn’t meet face to face. Eggcup, Stanleys Community Centre, and other organisations started to deliver their food to people’s doors, and have developed great networks of volunteers. Then Eggcup set up two outlets where members could pick up their food and make their own choices. These initiatives have been successful at delivering the food. But they don’t have the same feeling of community engagement as one gets in a food club, and they don’t build the confidence, sills, and networks of the next generation of community organiser.
The Food Poverty Alliance plan is useful to Eggcup because it shows our place in the overall system. On one side, we provide a more independent, long-term solution for people moving on from food club provision. On the other side, we want to engage with our members, when the restrictions are lifted, to give them more of the sense of belonging and shaping the organisation that they would have had before Covid-19. And ideally, we would help support community organisations to move to the next rung, organising new forms of food support, and bringing food to more communities.