A new initiative to tackle the root causes of poverty in Surrey will be launched by Epsom & Ewell Foodbank in early June.
The East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission will unite 15 civic, political and business leaders with 15 individuals who have lived experience of poverty in the area. The aim is ensure that people who have experience of using food banks are at the heart of how the local boroughs think and act in tackling poverty and inequality.
Epsom & Ewell Foodbank, which is a member of the Trussell Trust network, decided to initiate the project in response to their year-on-year increase in need for emergency food.
Between March 2018 to April 2019, the food bank, which operates out of five centres in Epsom, Ewell, Leatherhead, Tadworth and Banstead, handed out 4068 three-day emergency food parcels to people in crisis. 1554 of these went to children – a 45% increase on the same period last year.
The Commission will convene over the next 18 months to not only explore the root causes of poverty but to also begin to transform systems and cultures within public, private and voluntary sector organisations in East Surrey.
The project was part-funded through the Trussell Trust’s partnership with Asda and Fareshare as part of their Fight Hunger, Create Change initiative.* Additional funding was contributed by the Big Lottery Fund, Raven Housing Trust, Seedbed, Community Foundation for Surrey and an anonymous donor.
Jonathan Lees, food bank manager at Epsom & Ewell Foodbank, said:
“It’s unacceptable that our food bank’s figures are increasing year-on-year. With the need for emergency food accelerating alarmingly, we decided something had to be done, urgently. We couldn’t not simply increase the scale of what we do – it’s not sustainable, and crucially, it’s the exact opposite of what we want to see. We want everyone in the area to have enough money to buy food, not more and more people needing the food bank. That’s why we wanted to take a different approach and launch a Poverty Truth Commission.
“We need key stakeholders and the support of local businesses to better understand and address the causes and symptoms of poverty, ensuring that those affected, and their stories, are central to decisions made about how to tackle it. Let’s hope that the outcome is that one day no one will need to use our food bank.”
Garry Lemon, director of policy and research at the Trussell Trust, said:
“It’s clear the tide of poverty in our country is rising. Insecure work, benefit payments that don’t cover the cost of essentials, and increases in the cost of living have all come together to form a perfect storm. These increasingly strong currents are making it impossible for people to keep their heads above water.
“But this can change. We owe it to one another to make people are anchored from being swept into poverty. Together we can make a difference. And what’s so exciting about this project is that it truly is drawing everyone in the community together to make real, concrete changes to the structural problems that cause poverty – it’s placing people with lived experience of poverty right at the heart of creating that change. It’s great to see Epsom & Ewell Foodbank taking the lead on this in Surrey – we’re really looking forward to seeing what comes of cross-community conversations to tackle the root causes of poverty.”
The East Surrey Poverty Truth Commission will officially launch on June 4 between 10.30am-12pm at Bourne Hall, KT17 1UF.
About Epsom & Ewell Foodbank
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