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Bridging the Gap

The National Lottery Community Fund recently awarded Sustain and partners from across the UK an initial three-year grant of around £1.5m to explore how climate and nature friendly food can be affordable and accessible to all, under the new Bridging the Gap programme.

Sustain, Growing Communities and Alexandra Rose Charity (ARC), will work together with Food Sense Wales, Nourish Scotland and Nourish Northern Ireland will bring together local organisations and trading enterprises. Together, they will run pilots in all UK nations to overcome pricing and other barriers, making climate and nature friendly foods available to people on lower incomes.

The Bridging the Gap programme will learn from and build on locally based small-scale initiatives with promising solutions and aims to build evidence and momentum behind these ideas, so that credible models can be backed by funders and policy makers, taking the best models mainstream.

The programme is particularly welcome at a time when we have seen over 300 areas declare a climate and nature emergency, coupled with a dramatic increase in emergency food bank use, with The Trussell Trust alone recording a 31% rise in demand over the past 5 years. The cost of living crisis is adding additional pressure to low-income households, who, according to Food Foundation, often have to spend 40% of their income on food if they want to meet healthy eating recommendations. This is compared to just 7% of disposable income for the richest fifth of the population. This not only exacerbates health inequalities, but also makes many foods produced in ways that we need to encourage, such as sustainably grown fruit and veg, out of reach of those on lower income.

Key to the success of the Bridging the Gap programme will be working with existing food supply chains or community food traders and creating viable and sustainable long-term solutions that move away from emergency food aid. The programme will avoid embedding problems such as low incomes for food workers, and food waste caused by over-production for high-volume supermarket supply. The team welcomes involvement from other organisations addressing these issues and will be recruiting advisors for a collaboration group.

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