Covid food grants scheme extended for another year to help with cost-of-living crisis

A grant scheme set up to support community groups helping Lancashire residents deal with food insecurity at the height of the pandemic will continue for another year - because of the ongoing cost-of-living crisis.
Keeping food on the table isn't getting any easier for some Lancashire householdsKeeping food on the table isn't getting any easier for some Lancashire households
Keeping food on the table isn't getting any easier for some Lancashire households

Lancashire County Council began the initiative when Covid struck in 2020, in recognition of the challenges faced by households as a result of the outbreak.

The authority had planned to end the scheme last year as the government transitioned the nation into the so-called ‘living with it’ phase of the pandemic.

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However, the growing pressure on people’s finances during the 2022/23 financial year actually saw the pot provided by County Hall balloon - from £47,000 the previous year, when there were 52 successful applications, to £260,000 12 months later, when the number of organisations receiving support almost doubled to 97.

Now the authority’s cabinet members have approved plans to extend the programme for a further year - but have indicated that this will be the last. A report to a recent meeting of the cabinet recommended the extension of the scheme in recognition of “increasing demand for support and increasing costs incurred by community food organisations”.

The budget will drop to £100,000 this time round and eligible groups will be able to apply for grants of up to £2,000. Like last year, bids can be made for cash that will be used not only to fund food supplies that can be distributed to those in need, but also organisational costs, equipment and volunteer training.

Projects and activities that “build resilience” for those accessing support are also encouraged.

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The window for applications will open early next month and run through until October, with voluntary and faith organisations, registered charities, community interest companies and town and parish councils all eligible to make submissions.

Applicants will have to demonstrate the need for and sustainability of their projects, amongst other “key questions”.

Activities funded last year included the purchase of food for food banks and equipment to create and renovate community cafés, as well as training sessions such as cooking on a budget and healthy eating.

Lead member for health Sue Whittam told the meeting that the authority was “working with partners to come up with a more sustainable approach to food insecurity, as the current funding will not continue to be available”.

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The grant scheme has been funded by pots of money earmarked for Covid outbreak management and crisis support - and is separate from the tens of millions of pounds that Lancashire has received from the government in several tranches from its nationwide Household Support Fund.

Labour opposition group deputy leader Lorraine Beavers said she found it “very sad that it’s deemed normal for this council to donate £100,000 to…local communities, so that then we can feed the people of Lancashire”.

“I just wonder sometimes where this country has got to over the last 13 years,” she added.

Deputy county council leader Alan Vincent said he would be interested to see the “detail” of how the Labour Party nationally would tackle the issue.