Calderdale Food Network funding ended by NHS and Council

Calderdale Food Network, which aims to make affordable, good food a defining characteristic of Calderdale, is facing a total funding cut by March 2019.

Paul Butcher,the Calderdale Director of Public Health, told Calderdale Health and Wellbeing Board in June that Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group funding ended in June 2018. Calderdale Council Public Health can continue some funding until March 2019.

This will pay to support Calderdale schools and early years settings to serve high quality food throughout the school day, and to provide food education – including cooking, growing and creating links with local farms and food producers.

Paul Butcher pointed out that at £400m/year, the food economy in Calderdale is bigger than tourism etc. He wants  to do work about supporting the food economy through procurement policies etc.

Cutting funding for scheme to reduce obesity

Paul Butcher’s report to the Health and Wellbeing Board noted that overweight and obesity-related ill health cost the NHS in England  £6.1 billion  in 2014-15, with a broader economic impact on wider society of an estimated £27billion.

Reducing obesity is the key aim of the Calderdale Food For Life scheme, which Calderdale Food Network is part of.

Matt Walsh, Chief Officer of Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group, asked,

“What happens when the Calderdale Food Network money runs out?”

Paul Butcher replied,

“We’re looking at the community to step up.”

Let’s hope this doesn’t involve sponsorship by businesses that are a public health hazard – like the fracking and plastics company Ineos’s sponsorship of the primary schools public health programme “The Daily Mile.”

How odd that the Calderdale Clinical Commissioning Group Chief Officer hadn’t considered what would happen to the scheme when the organisation he runs stops funding it.

And since reducing obesity by promoting healthy eating (and more exercise) is a key public health aim in the Calderdale Integrated Care System (formerly Sustainability and Transformation Plan), it seems even odder for the Clinical Commissioning Group and the Council to cut the funding for the key public health project that aims to achieve this goal.

But no one at the meeting commented on this. Instead they all agreed that their various organisations would sign a “Joint Food Active Declaration for Healthy Weight.”

Sustainable Food Cities targets

In January this year, Calderdale Food Network became a  member of the Sustainable Food Cities Network. Its action plan addresses the 6 Sustainable Food Cities targets:

1. Promoting healthy and sustainable food to the public
2. Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill health and access to affordable healthy
3. Building community food knowledge, skills, resources and projects
4. Promoting a vibrant and diverse sustainable food economy
5. Transforming catering and food procurement
6. Reducing waste and the ecological footprint of the food system

Where is the commitment to ending food poverty?

Although tackling food poverty is the second priority of Sustainable Food Cities Network, which Calderdale is part of, no one at the Health and Wellbeing Board meeting mentioned this.

The Health and Wellbeing Board urgently needs to address this. It could follow the example of York City Council which has unanimously passed a motion on tackling food poverty in York.

The motion asks York City Council to write to York’s MPs urging their support for a national campaign to persuade the Government to properly measure food poverty in the UK, referring to a report from the United Nations that says that up to 17 times the growing number of people who actually use food banks are experiencing ‘food insecurity’ – not knowing where their next meal will come from, not eating in order to provide food for their children or having to choose between food and paying bills.

It also asks for a report to the Council’s Executive to bring together any local figures on food poverty, to look into how far welfare support and crisis payments in York are reaching those who most need them and to put forward options for further action.

Key areas of work for Calderdale Food Network

The Calderdale  Food For Life Conference in May 2018 identified these key areas of work for the Food Network:

  • Improving the access to healthy food at food banks by tackling problems around transport
  • Junk food advertising (use Mayor of London example)
  • Environmental health accreditation award scheme looking at food offer
  • Flexible tenders using local producers
  • Vending offer across council sites
  • School/Community use of the Piece Hall to sell/showcase food produced

Future plans for Calderdale Food Network (CFN) include:

  • recruiting a part time coordinator,
  • carrying on with its action plan,
  • getting more involved with Active Calderdale/Sport and the Big Lottery funded Place-Based Social Action project (who on earth comes up with these names?) and
  • connecting procurement staff and cooks in public institutions, building on the Calderdale Cooks’ Network to enhance good food in schools, the hospital, nurseries and care settings.

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