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Derbyshire County Council allocates £400,000 of funding to support struggling food banks

Derbyshire County Council has agreed to use £400,000 from a Covid outbreak and public health funding pot to support struggling food banks, as the cost-of-living crisis continues to make life difficult for the county’s most vulnerable residents.

The Conservative-led council cabinet approved at a recent meeting that grant funding from its government-backed Contain Outbreak Management Fund be awarded to the Foundation Derbyshire charity to help cover the costs of food, support for volunteers and staff with expenses, and the cost of fixtures, fittings and fuel for food banks.

Cllr Carol Hart, cabinet member for Health and Communities, told the meeting: “I think we were all hoping after Covid there would not be such a demand on food banks but unfortunately with the cost-of-living crisis, the need has increased so we really think this is an essential grant at this time.”

She added there is also a shortage of donations and food bank volunteers, and the council wants to encourage more people to help out by making sure they can cover their expenses.

Nationally, the State of Hunger Report 2019 found around 11 per cent of children aged under-16 live in "food insecure households", while around 36 per cent of food parcels distributed by the Trussell Trust’s network of food banks go to children. Meanwhile, the End Child Poverty Report in 2019 found that more than 42 per cent of Derbyshire children were living in poverty.

Covid and inflationary price rises have increased the cost of food and fuel, and The Food Foundation estimates that close to 5 million adults are "food insecure", compared with 4 million last year and 2 million pre-pandemic; with 1.7 million children living in these households.

The council also stated that there has been an increase in the number of families eligible for free school meals – an indication that average family income is reducing – and the latest figure for Derbyshire showed that 26.6 per cent of families were eligible in 2022-23 compared with 24.7 per cent in 2021-22.

A council spokesperson said: “Those experiencing food insecurity are among the most vulnerable in society and are disproportionately likely to be experiencing poor health outcomes, poor nutrition, and low resilience to illness. Those living in deprived areas experienced higher levels of mortality from Covid-19.”

The government’s report, titled Covid-19 response: Living with Covid-19, also outlined local authorities should work to increase the mental health and well-being of those most affected by the pandemic and promote safer behaviours to reduce future risk of infection, including addressing "food insecurity" to boost resilience.

The Feeding Derbyshire Network connects 34 food banks, and there are many more across the county that are not part of this network that the council has supported since March 2020. The council has provided grants administered by Foundation Derbyshire totalling £850,000 to support food banks during this same period.

The latest funding will allow Foundation Derbyshire to continue to administer a grants scheme for Derbyshire food banks, maintain appropriate administrative processes for financial payments, and ensure that the grants will be used to support the availability and accessibility of food.

Rural Action Derbyshire – which provides the Feeding Derbyshire network – has also committed to working closely with Foundation Derbyshire and the council to plan sustainability of food projects during 2024.

The government’s Contain Outbreak Management Fund was launched to provide local authorities in England with financial help to reduce the spread of the Covid during the outbreak of the pandemic, and to support public health. Foundation Derbyshire is the operating name for the independent Derbyshire Community Foundation charity which supports voluntary and community groups with grant funding.

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