Council’s Food Strategy to support Borough’s most vulnerable and tackle childhood obesity

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Overwhelming cross-party support for a motion tabled by the Green Party, is calling on Bedford Borough Council’s Executive to produce a Food Strategy to address inequality, poverty and to provide support to the Borough’s most vulnerable citizens.

In the party’s first motion, Green Councillor, Lucy Bywater, got Bedford Borough Council to agree to take a strategic approach to food after food inequalities became highlighted by the pandemic.

Cllr Bywater pointed out that in Bedford, 20.2% of children in Year 6 are classified as obese, higher than the average for England and that poor nutrition leading to obesity, Type 2 diabetes and tooth decay is closely linked to areas of greater deprivation.

Lucy said: “While the council’s public health team were working hard on this (before Covid19 understandably took most of their time), access to a healthy diet and its critical importance for long-term health of the borough must be something for all of the council to work on.”

Lucy said, “The Government wants to halve childhood obesity by 2030 and that will be challenging because of the complex issues related to poverty and inequality, education and even the built environment.

“With more joined up thinking and creative partnership working, there’s a lot more we can do as an authority to address the links between food inequalities, poor health and environmental sustainability together.

At the Full Council meeting on Wednesday (2 December), Cllr Bywater thanked the huge commitment since the pandemic of the very many charities and community volunteers as well as the council’s Community Hub to help get fresh food and other essentials to those most in need.

She also acknowledged the ongoing hard work of the council’s public health team.

Cllr Lucy Bywater & Cllr Ben Foley outside the community larder, where they both volunteer

“Hopefully, with this strategy, we can make that happen over the next few years. It’s probably never been more important for the borough to be resilient and help local people towards improved health. ”

The LibDems’ Cllr Headley, the Council’s finance portfolio holder, revealed that plans are well advanced for shopping vouchers to be made available for families entitled to income related free school meals over the Christmas holidays.

Cllr Headley said: “We’ve shown that we’re committed to supporting the most vulnerable, with full council tax relief for those most in need and a wide array of efforts to support those who might otherwise struggle to put food on the table.

“We now have overwhelming backing from Full Council to pull together the work that’s being done and to build on it.

“This process will help ensure we’re doing all we can, across the Council, to help tackle food inequality and poverty across Bedford Borough.”

Conservative councillor, Phillippa Martin-Moran-Bryant, said she was pleased to support the motion, given the pockets of severe deprivation in the Borough.

“For me one of the key points, which I raised as part of the debate, is the role that education needs to play in the food strategy,” said Cllr Martin-Moran-Bryant.

“It can very easily be taken for granted that everyone knows how to cook and understands nutrition, but if you don’t then accessing quality food isn’t really a choice, before you even consider the costs of healthy eating.

“I look forward to seeing the Food Strategy develop and I hope residents will engage with the process too.”

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