1:43pm Monday 11th March 2013
Exclusive By Geoff Barnes
Almost 6,200 people in Wirral have been forced to use the local food bank since the scheme’s inception last year, it has been revealed.
Just over one-in-three recipients are children – concrete evidence of the levels of food poverty in the borough.
In response to the shock findings, Wirral Shadow Health and Wellbeing Board will this week be studying a proposal for the setting up of a Wirral "Food Plan" involving wide-ranging approaches in developing the scheme.
A report to the board on Wednesday night claims that a food plan can transform food culture, enabling economic growth and prosperity as well as improving population health.
It warns that poor diet is directly related to coronary heart disease, obesity and some types of cancer – bowel, oesophageal, gastric, oral and breast.
The report further claims that “the food system is a major environmental threat locally and internationally."
In Wirral cardiovascular disease is a major contributor to premature deaths and is a leading cause of health problems.
It continues: “Rates of overweight and obesity among children and adults in Wirral are higher than the England average and of the six main causes of death in Wirral cancer accounts for most deaths in both men and women.”
The report points to long-standing concerns about environmental efficiency in the food system, the role of food in health and inequalities and, most recently, the integrity of food production.
It comments: “Access, availability, quality and cultural attitudes to food impact unequivocally on both the health of the population and the local environment.
"Furthermore since the start of the global recession food poverty has increased significantly, resulting in the emergence of a UK-wide network of food banks.
“It is anticipated that the imminent programme of welfare reform will further exacerbate the problem.”
Measures suggested for adoption by the food plan include increasing awareness of healthy and sustainable food, including food growing, budgeting and cooking skills; increasing community food enterprise models; increasing availability of sustainable foods with local enterprise; increasing markets for local food producers and redistributing, recycling and composting food waste.
Further initiatives would involve diversity in retail food; the creation of new growing areas and protecting key infrastructure for local food supply.
The health and wellbeing board is being asked to endorse the development of a food plan. A consultation event is planned to involve a wide range of stakeholders from across Wirral working with neighbourhoods to “identify action tailored to local communities.”
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