Film by Jo Syz

Nearly 1 in 5 households in our rich country are now experiencing food insecurity, and over half a million children have officially fallen into poverty over the last year.

On Saturday, as a finale to a week of action by the #RightToFood campaign, marches and rallies took place in Liverpool, Belfast and in Newham and Haringey in London.

Independent film-maker Jo Syz has let us publish his short film which perfectly captures the spirit of the Haringey event – a march from the Tottenham football stadium to a rally and ‘Festival of Resistance’ at Tottenham Green.

The nationwide campaign was initiated in 2020 by Liverpool West Derby Labour MP Ian Byrne, who tabled an Early Day Motion promoting it last week, but it has been very much taken up by grassroots networks around the country.

Our reporter Pasqueline Agostinho interviewed Carmel Cadden, who volunteers for a local foodbank – Community CookUp. She tells us how important food banks have become, but that they are a disgrace in the fifth or sixth richest nation on earth, and are unsustainable. She blames bad government for allowing spiralling rent increases and fuel costs, and adds her voice to the demand for free school meals.

Film by Pasqueline Agostinho

In Haringey, the event was supported by a wide range of community campaigners, among them Haringey Community Action Network (HCAN), Saturday school and community hub project Homegrown, and migrant solidarity group Community CookUp. Both latter groups have faced eviction and funding issues in the past year – as Tarun Gidwani, co-chair of the Right to Food London says in the film “We’re taking money away from communities, away from people’s need to eat, to survive, for basic human nourishment, and giving it to the rich.

The campaign makes 5 demands of the government (supported by 44 MPs at time of writing):

  • universal free school meals
  • a breakdown of government figures for minimum wage and benefits to show how much they are factoring in for food
  • an independent and legally empowered body to follow up on Right To Food legislation
  • fully-funded Community Kitchens to help during school holidays, and all year round for the elderly and vulnerable
  • government planning for food security.

Haringey Councillor Michelle Simmons-Safo, speaking at the end of the film, has worked with Haringey communities for 30 years, and describes how she has never seen such abject suffering and poverty as now, including child malnutrition. She says:
Hunger is a political choice. It degrades our dignity, our self-respect, and ultimately affects our mental well-being.

Community CookUp organiser Alison Davy says: “We aren’t the sort of people to think the job has been done because we’ve had a march. The march is the first step to raising awareness, but it’s just the beginning.”

Get in touch with Haringey Right To Food for more info or to help out.

[Main photo courtesy of David Gilchrist]