On 12th May 2023, Good Food Oxfordshire alongside Oxford University, Oxfordshire County Council and the Centre for Global Health Research hosted a roundtable on child nutrition in Oxfordshire.
The roundtable, which took place at Somerville College, brought together a range of stakeholders with a shared goal of tackling child food poverty in Oxfordshire. The event’s speakers included representatives from grassroots organisations, local institutions, health specialists, local councillors, and policy makers. The main themes of the day ranged from setting the scene in the County (highlighting the issues at hand and which initiatives have been successful), listening to the voices of children and parents affected by food inequality in Oxfordshire, and how to take collective action to bring about real change.
Some of the local priorities outlined included: a need for user-friendly and cross-cultural information about childhood nutrition; decreased reliance on voluntary organisations from national government; improved connections between families, schools, and support; cash-first approaches; and universal school meals.
Good Food Oxfordshire’s Manager, Fiona Steel, spoke on the Food Strategy for Oxfordshire and the insights our work in the field has shown in relation to food insecurity. This linked in with findings from a recent health needs assessment and scrutiny review presented by Claire Gray, a Health Improvement Practitioner from Oxfordshire County Council’s Public Health team.
One of the successes of the roundtable was that it provided a platform for the voices of children and parents and enabled firsthand perspectives of food insecurity, linking directly to the event’s title ‘Listen and act’. Attendees heard from, for example, local parent Stacey Bickely who volunteers with Home-Start Oxford’s Growing Minds cooking group. The mother of two provided an emotive account of some of the challenges faced by herself and other parents in the County.
In the same scene-setting session, Melissa Latchman spoke about Flo’s Early Lives Equal Start programme, which addresses the gaps in food policy for pregnant mothers and early years; Rizvana Poole from The Chippy Larder spoke about her initiative to link community members and volunteers with local farmers to reduce food waste through gleaning; and Chris Chaundy, Director of Rose Hill Junior Youth Club, presented on the positive impact their after-school open-access sessions and allotment are having on children (aged 5-12) who attend.
In the afternoon, attendees heard about how cash-first approaches enable agency and choice and remove stigma and barriers from Fran Bennett from Oxford and District Action on Child Poverty. Annie Davy and Madhur Wale, on behalf of Flo’s and the OX4 Food Crew, highlighted the importance of community-led research.
In summary, the roundtable successfully highlighted the need to listen to lived experiences of food inequality in Oxfordshire and how collective, community-led action can make a difference. We hope this event has offered attendees from across different sectors insight and motivation to see a future where all children in Oxfordshire have access to healthy and affordable food.
If you have been inspired by this topic and would like to make your own commitment to help end food poverty in Oxfordshire, please sign our Food Poverty Pledge.
This meeting was supported by funding through an Oxford Policy Engagement Network Fellowship awared to Dr Shobhana Nagraj, University of Oxford, working in partnership with Good Food Oxfordshire and OX4 Food Crew.