Liberal Democrats have been out talking to residents on the doorstep in Mid Sussex talking about the cost of living crisis. It was clear that many people are finding it harder to make ends meet. One person told us that they are changing, “to a more cost-effective menu but it is not as healthy.” Another that they are “not able to afford to take the children out.” Others said that, “our family income does not go as far”. Another person said that their, “wellbeing (was) affected – mental health stress”.
Such comments highlight the growing pressures ordinary working families are under.Increased prices, particularly for food are a worry for us all, and earlier this month the Conservative government’s own advisor on food issues condemned the newly announced national food strategy, saying it means more children will go hungry. His own proposals which included expanding free school meals, and greater environmental and welfare standards in farming, and promoting reduced meat and dairy consumption were all side-lined.
Indeed, the headline from the strategy says it all when one of the most significant aspects is to make it easier for deer stalkers to sell wild venison!Promises to retain high EU standards for food production have been jettisoned and there is no clear strategy for food security when we can no longer rely on imports from other European countries if we are outside the single market.
At the same time, we are seeing support for British farmers reduced, and funding for free school meals has increased by less than 5% in eight years.Liberal Democrats want to see a food strategy that makes it a government responsibility to ensure everyone has a right to safe, nutritious, and sustainable food. We should be supporting our farmers, not undercutting them by allowing unsafe and low quality food imports.
We should be tackling the problems caused by Brexit by developing closer links with our European neighbours who we rely on for a quarter of our food.Locally the Liberal Democrat run Town Council has provided support to the Burgess Hill Food Bank, and local Lib Dems set up and accommodated the Burgess Hill Pantry which helps residents struggling on low incomes to stretch their household budgets further. (For a weekly membership of £4, members of the Pantry can choose a selection of food worth around £20).
Burgess Hill Town Council has also supported small traders such as the plastic free shop, Scrapless, and the Repair Café which repairs small electrical items, clothing and textiles, and some other household items for a donation.We’ll continue working to find ways to support Mid Sussex residents at this difficult time.