In July 2020, shortly after Marcus Rashford had forced the Government into a u-turn over Free School Meals, Suffolk County Council unanimously passed a motion committing itself to tackling food poverty in the county. A number of measures were agreed, the most significant of which was to ‘develop and implement a Food Justice Action Plan by the end of 2021’.
Families face impossible choices
At the time, the combined impact of the pandemic and a decade of austerity had left tens of thousands of families living in poverty, with the growth of food banks underlining the desperate situation many in our communities are facing.
That motion was an imperative then, and is even more so now, with a cost of living crisis threatening to drag thousands of households even deeper into hardship. Too many families are having to face the impossible choice of heating or eating.
However, despite the key commitment to ‘develop and implement a Food Justice Action Plan by the end of 2021’, there has been no evidence of the strategy being published, let alone implemented. We are now a month beyond the deadline and over 18 months since the motion was agreed.
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Chasing the Council
Given the critical nature of the issue, East Anglia Bylines wrote to Suffolk County Council over a fortnight ago, asking seven straightforward questions relating to the agreed motion. The most pertinent of these was whether the strategy had been published, and if not, why not?
However, despite acknowledgement of our initial email, promises of a reply, and subsequent follow ups from East Anglia Bylines, we have still not yet received answers to any of our questions.
We now feel we have no choice but to put these questions into the public domain, in the hope that residents may finally receive some answers.
The questions we asked were as follows (the council papers to which the questions refer can be found here):
1. Who is the nominated Cabinet Member with responsibility for delivering food justice in Suffolk as outlined in point 1?
2. What actions specific to Suffolk has he/she implemented regarding food poverty?
3. What measures have been introduced to increase the take up of free school meals and Healthy Start vouchers?
4. Can you share the letter sent from the Leader of SCC to the relevant minister asking the government to enshrine its existing commitment to UN Sustainable Development Goal 2 into domestic legislation, as outlined in point 3?
5. Please can you share the Food Justice Action Plan which should have been published by the end of 2021, as outlined in point 5?
6. If this has not been published during the 18 month timetable, can you outline why?
7. If any of the points outlined in the motion, including the publication of the Food Justice Action Plan, have not been completed despite receiving approval by the council, what are the consequences for the Council, with regards to decision making, accountability and scrutiny?
As soon as we have answers, we will be happy to publish them.