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The WI to launch national debate on issue of food poverty

The NFWI (National Federation of Women’s Institutes) is launching a national debate on food poverty, with WI members across the country organising local events to look into how the issue affects people in their communities and nationally.

The WI has a long history of campaigning on food. The supply of food to the war-torn nation was central to the early activities of the 103-year-old organisation, and since then the challenges of ensuring a sustainable food supply, tackling poverty and protecting the environment have remained close to WI members’ hearts.

The WI recently supported a private members bill which called for the provision of free meals and activities for children in the school holidays to tackle the problem of holiday hunger.

The NFWI is launching this work with an event in Westminster today (28 February), with a panel that includes the Chair of the Work and Pensions select committee, Frank Field MP, as well as the founder of Magic Breakfast, Carmell McConnell MBE.

Speaking before the launch event, Lynne Stubbings, Chair of the NFWI, said:

“People in communities across the UK are going hungry and struggling to buy the good nutritious food they need.

“I know that the WI has the power to make positive change. From standing up for dairy farmers to ensure they receive a fair price for their milk, to pushing the Government to launch a national pollinator strategy to protect the health of our bees, WI members know how to get things done.

“This work follows on from our pioneering Great Food Debates project, which saw WIs and county federations organise over a hundred food discussion events in 2013 and 2014 to consider the issue of the country’s food security.

“I firmly believe that greater public engagement in the issue of food poverty is key, and as an organisation with deep roots in education and our communities, the WI can have a big role helping to promote public engagement with the challenges and opportunities we face in securing sustainable food for all.”

Carmel McConnell MBE, founder and CEO of Magic Breakfast, a charity providing healthy breakfasts during term time to more than 31,000 children at over 470 schools in England, said:

“I am excited to hear that the WI is getting its teeth into the problem of food poverty. With thousands of local groups across the country, and hundreds of thousands of passionate members, I think they can play a big role in increasing public awareness of the problem of food poverty.

“We know that food poverty affects many children, damaging their academic attainment - more than half a million arrive at school too hungry to learn, a shocking fact in the sixth richest economy.  That’s why my organisation Magic Breakfast provides healthy food to 31,000 hungry school day without price or stigma to ensure no child is too hungry to learn.”

Denise Bentley, CEO and co-founder of the First Love Foundation, which runs Tower Hamlets Foodbank, said: “Millions of people across the UK are being plunged into food crisis through no fault of their own, and as a society we are still yet to witness the full impact this is having on our now most vulnerable people.

“If we want to see a society where people are able to move out of poverty and are enabled to live sustainable, independent and healthy lives, then tackling the root causes of food poverty is therefore crucial.

“I warmly welcome the WI’s call to make tackling food poverty a priority and hope that this will serve as the call to action that is needed.”