Posted: Thu 9th May 2024

Council set to roll out Welsh Government funded “Food Partnership” in Wrexham for people living in or visiting the Wrexham area

Wrexham council are set to create a new job role to help support the work of the local foodbanks, with small grants also being made available to help build a more resilience network to tackle local food poverty.

A year ago the Welsh Government announced £3 million of funding to support the development of “cross-sector food partnerships in response to the cost of living crisis”

The council explain to councillors ahead of Tuesday’s Executive Board meeting, “Food partnerships help build resilience in local food networks through the co-ordination of on the ground, food-related activity; help tackle the root-causes of food poverty; develop citizen action; maximise the effectiveness of projects and ensure that resources are targeted at areas of greatest need.”

A £100k grant from Welsh Government will see Wrexham Council “employ a Food Network Coordinator to support the development of a Wrexham Food Partnership (£37,000) and fund a Small Grants Scheme to achieve the partnership’s objectives (£63,900)”.

In supporting documentation it states, “This is a funded programme established by the Welsh Government, for implementation by all 22 local authorities in Wales. There has not been any specific local evidence collated by the Council to inform the proposal, as we are being asked to deliver a national programme but in order to access the funding award, the Council has provided evidence at the county borough level, to demonstrate that the proposal is relevant and required”.

Councillors are told already “there are eight satellite foodbank sessions held across Wrexham, all dealing with increasing need. Wrexham Foodbank works with over a hundred local organisations, charities, and Council departments to identify people in crisis and refer them for support, including an emergency food parcels”.

What the actual partnership will do is explained as, “…within the County Borough there are many examples of existing food provision and innovation, including that designed to support emergency access to alleviate food poverty. This food partnership seeks to bring all of these provisions together to ensure collaboration and support further development. The funding will also strengthen existing food partnerships that help build resilience in local food networks through the co-ordination of on the ground, food-related activity; help tackle the root-causes of food poverty; develop citizen action; maximise the effectiveness of projects and ensure that resources are available to people in need across the entire County Borough.”

The Small Grants Scheme will support projects between £300 and £3,000 with 100% grants, and over £3k applications will see a lower percentage but no less than £3000.

Lead Member Councillor Beverley Parry Jones said, “This is going to be the start of a positive journey for Wrexham in leading the way with the different partners and stakeholders”.

Taking questions at the monthly media brief we asked Cllr Parry Jones about the project, and associated resilience that was needed locally, with excellent well run local operations such as the foodbank already existing.

She replied, “I think this will add to it, it is not just going to target the poverty caused by food, but other poverty that people experience. What is poverty? We’ve got the cost of living crisis, which is coming down, but then you’ve got other things are impacting, water rates are going up.

“There was a program on television not so long ago, where some children don’t actually have a bed to sleep on. So what is poverty? So maybe targeting and focusing our efforts, hopefully, we wouldn’t duplicate something other stakeholders are doing and we will target our resources in other areas.”

We asked why she believed the cost of living crisis was ‘coming down’, and was told “Your energy prices are coming down. So because your energy prices are coming down, that’s going to give you extra pennies in your pocket to spend on food, or whatever your needs or wants are at that particular moment in time.”

We asked if the £100k would be better spent on more direct support, for example 1500 – 3500 direct food parcels.

Cllr Parry Jones replied, “I would say that that those food parcels are going to the most needy of the population.”

With the Leader of the Council previously voicing his concerns over short term Welsh Government grants ( ““they give us a one off grant to run a service and then two years later, it stops. Then we have to pick up the bill.”) we asked Cllr Mark Pritchard and Cllr David A Bithell if they could commit to funding the new partnership in this form even if the cash from Cardiff stopped.

Cllr Pritchard clarified that his comments were historic around recycling grants, “I think poverty is a difficult area. I will not play politics with poverty, you can’t. Wherever the money comes from I will accept it.

With some areas of Welsh Government spending being highly criticised by the political leadership in Wrexham (20MPH, Cardiff Airport etc) we asked if this type of grant, and others recently discussed involving apps and the like has had any local pushback, with the call for money to be placed into council’s education budgets instead.

Cllr David A Bithell said, “I was the chair of the cost of living working group and the food partnership is about coordinating across, not just internally within the council, but external partners to make sure that whatever food there is, goes to the right people and supports that the right people in poverty.

“I agree that the £33m Welsh Government spent on 20MPH could have gone directly to support schools and education.

“But, this grant probably is going to help coordinate and make sure that we tackle poverty across the council.

“I think the difference is this will be indirectly supporting people who are struggling, working collaboratively with the health board, housing departments , and other partnerships.

“This is a real good partnership funded by Welsh Government. So some grants are really good by Welsh Government, and other grants probably need refining – like the 20MPH probably.

Food Partnership Aims
Aim 1 – Health and Nutrition – Increase access to healthier food options
Aim 2 – Access and Equity – Food security access to sufficient safe and
healthy food for everyone
Aim 3 – Community Engagement and Empowerment – Food cohesive communities
Aim 4 – Sustainability – Encouraging a globally responsible approach to food production
Aim 5 – Procurement – Transforming food procurement and catering
Aim 6 – Food Economy – Encourage a Vibrant, Sustainable Food Economy

The council say a Steering Group has worked with the Food Co-ordinator to scope and develop proposals – and has worked with a list of ‘partners and stakeholders’ as below:

Local Places for Nature AVOW
Caia Park Partnership HMP Berwyn
Wrexham Foodbank
BCUHB Public Health
Come and Cook
WCBC Compliance Team Wrexham University
WCBC Town Centre Manager Incredible Edible
Plas Madoc
Citizen’s Advice
Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board
Food Partnership Co-ordinators from other Local Authorities WCBC Health & Wellbeing Lead
WG Food Division
Local Councillors – Cllr Phil Wynn and Cllr Jeremy Newton WCBC Economy Team
Coleg Menai
Social Farms and Gardens – Katie Trent
WCBC Schools Meals
Eat Well, Be Active Subgroup

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