1. How will you support people living in poverty with access to food? What is your plan to end the need for food banks?
Food banks shouldn’t be needed; they reflect a set of policies and politics that are unwilling and unable to prevent people from falling into poverty nor provide a proper safety net if they do. They are a consequence of inhumane national welfare policy.
Because of this, they are now used more than ever. The cost-of-living crisis is hitting everyone; disadvantaged households in particular are facing tough decisions every day. Whilst we need a holistic approach that helps people with rent and bills too, food is a huge and increasing expense for so many of us with recent data showing approximately 9% of the city suffering from food insecurity.
As a local authority struggling against the tidal of a callous national government, we have limits to what we can do to turn this around. Nonetheless, we will continue to do what we can within that to alleviate the problem locally and value hugely the work done by other organisations in the city including Brighton & Hove Food Partnership.
Work is being done to support people across the city, and the council plays a central role in that. We will continue to ensure information is readily available, and that people can access assistance including money advice, warming and cooling centres, and help with food, bills and wellbeing. We’ve provided vouchers via the Local Discretionary Social Fund, which has helped people buy food and groceries.
We will also continue exploring utilising council facilities for food projects, and welcome all applications. Previously we have supported the Brighton Centre and City Mission being given a lease for such services. Additionally, we have already launched a donation fund to help fund support for those most struggling with the rising cost of living, and introduced food donation points in council buildings to help support our vital emergency food network.
2. What will you do to support healthy diets for people of all ages?
Our Sustainable Food Strategy will contain a cross-city plan to maximise food that is grown locally, produced sustainably and accessible easily to residents. This new approach will ensure that whether people want to grow themselves or buy locally, that is an affordable and practical option for them. That means the supplier needs to be able to produce in a way that makes affordable prices a viable option for them; developing our circular economy, introducing more collective solutions such as composting and offering day-to-day support to businesses will all help with this. Equally, residents need to know about local produce so we will continue to expand awareness in the city of what is available.
We know that healthy foods are typically more expensive than cheaper, accessible unhealthy foods. Healthy food inflation levels were at 15% in January, compared with unhealthy food at 11% inflation. When workers are often being offered no pay increase, or a 2%, 3% or 4% rise (well below inflation), it becomes clear why people struggle to afford to eat healthily. So, it’s important that everything we do regarding healthy living is also connected to the cost-of-living crisis and access to food. By increasing wages of council staff significantly, tackling high rents, or introducing new green jobs to the city, we help to facilitate people to make the choices they want to make in their diets.
Similarly, health is not just about what we eat. By introducing schemes such as School Streets and Liveable Neighbourhoods, we are making streets safer to walk and air cleaner to breathe. Similarly, we have expanded the playgrounds across the city, and plan to increase our sports facilities too.
3. How will you use your Local Authority levers, such as procurement, building and land ownership, business rate relief, licensing and planning to support local food businesses and systems?
Since taking over leading the council in July 2020 in the midst of the pandemic, Greens have pushed to support local food systems. Social value is part of the council’s procurement policy; we recognise the social value of local food systems, and ensure that procurement reflects this accordingly. For example, providing partner organisations with a lease on council property to open a food bank and co-locate advice services.
We will continue to prioritise these kinds of actions within the restrictions placed on us by central government. We are also looking at expanding the number of allotments so that more residents have the option of growing their own food. As outlined in our manifesto, we will also be looking at developing a community farm on council-owned land. Through the work of the Asset Management Board, councillors are also able to advise against proposals by food businesses, including fast food outlets, that are inconsistent with the council’s food policy. In terms of the council’s own housing developments, we will be looking at more potential for food-growing in community gardens, as is the case with the new council housing development at Victoria Road, Portslade.
4. Considering the power community gardening & outdoor projects have to combat food waste and promote wellbeing, how will you ensure as many people as possible have access to allotments, spaces for gardening and composting facilities?
We are committed to encouraging more local food-growing to help develop a degree of food self-sufficiency. Greens will increase the number of allotments in the city and ensure they are tenanted as we see the many values they bring to improved food security, biodiversity and health co-benefits for those who use them. In parallel to this, where possible, new council housing is being designed with community gardens as a core part of schemes to allow tenants space for gardening, including food growing.
We support continuing to offer community composting schemes and would explore whether there could be additional funding made available for extra household caddies and additional or replacement composters.
We will continue to try to introduce a food waste collection scheme that was previously blocked by councillors of other parties. This would involve kerbside collections for those who already have kerbside collections for recycling and general waste but would likely be done on a communal basis in areas with communal recycling and general waste. There are options for the treatment of food waste including turning it into soil conditioner and fertiliser as is currently done with garden waste, providing a short supply chain and peat-free alternative to local farmers and gardeners.
We look to work with various partners to make this happen, and anticipate the implementation, with grassroots organisations, of a comprehensive Sustainable Food Strategy. We will seek to adopt and implement policies that increase access to premises and land for healthy, sustainable and fair food enterprises.
5. Will you commit to delivering the City Downland Estate plan as a priority? What will you do to create shorter food supply chains to increase our food security?
Greens have long led the charge on the CIty Downlands Estate Plan for the 12,800 acres of downland owned by the city and believe that delivering the plan should be a big priority for all councillors. Our plan is to support our tenant farmers, both current and new, to farm regeneratively. This would be alongside protecting the water quality in the aquifer, increasing public access to the downland, restoring the chalk grassland and enhancing biodiversity. In conjunction with the other proposals we’ve outlined, including increasing allotment space and the possibility of a community farm on council-owned land, there is a huge opportunity for increased local food production and food security.
By doing so, working together we can increase the quantity of high quality, nutritious food grown within or near the city. The importance of food security via local growing has been especially highlighted recently through shortages and price fluctuations caused by Brexit related issues importing from mainland Europe. Through work with partner organisations and increased communication to educate local businesses on opportunities to source ingredients locally, we would like to see demand grow to ensure that these supply chains can be maintained and grown. Sustainable, local food production also provides a benefit in reducing the carbon footprint of the food we consume.