[TECH 3022] No Poverty. No Hunger.

Eliminating Hunger and Children Poverty

According to a new poverty measurement developed by the Social Metrics Commission (SMC), more than 14 million people in the UK are living below the breadline, with more than half trapped in poverty for years. 4.5 million (or approximately 33%) of that 14 million are CHILDREN.

In fact, in 2017, Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) forecasted children living in poverty will rise to 5.2 million (or around 37%) by 2022, a figure that is more than reversing all the progress made over the past 20 years. At the same time, absolute child poverty is projected to increase by 4 percentage points (ppts), climbing beyond 1996 peak. Planned tax, benefits reform and introduction of Universal Credit are amongst the main causes contributing to the surge in child poverty. Relevant reports could be viewed here and here.

According to The Guardian, the UK as a whole has been left without an official measure of poverty since the government scrapping of Labour’s child poverty targets in 2015 – although the previous measure was retained in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. This is where SMC comes in to “build a consensus around poverty measurement” which embodied a mutual mission of encouraging better-targeted poverty interventions by the government, and ultimately, devise a successor to the abolished child poverty targets.

(Source: IFS)

Food Poverty among Children in Leicester

Reducing to scope to Leicester, it was reported that one in four children in the city is living in poverty. And when kids grow up poor, that means they miss out on the things most children take for granted: sufficient nutrient.

Food poverty among children is an urgent social issue to be tackled under UN Sustainable Development Goal 1: No Poverty and Goal 2: Zero Hunger.

A recent survey by Leicester City Council found that one in five children worry about not having enough to eat and one in six children say they have nothing to eat or drink before school. Many of them rely on free school dinners throughout the year for their one hot meal a day. In other words, when there is no school, there are no free school meals.

Holiday Hunger” has increased markedly in recent years and left families struggling especially over the six-week summer break where many parents face increased pressure on already tight household budgets to pay for extra childcare, food and activities. This echoed with a recent report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Hunger which found that three million children in the UK are at risk of going hungry over the summer holidays. Last year, 593 organisations running holiday clubs across the UK provided more than 190,000 meals to over 22,000 school-aged children.

Department of Education launched Holiday Provision programme with £2 million fund goes towards exploring how best to help the most disadvantaged children to benefit from healthy meals and enriching activities over the summer of 2018. Leicester, as one of the eight pilots joining Feeding Britain did tremendous effort to fight holiday hunger this summer. More than 30,000 lunches were provided over the six-week break, which is more than double the amount of free meals given out last summer. This was achieved with the partnership of its city council and local charities, forming Feeding Leicester.

National Director of Feeding Britain talking about the hunger spike during school holidays this summer. The conversation also discussed the ways in which Feeding Britain investigates solutions for the underlying causes of food poverty by working with politicians to hopefully bring changes in legislations.

Problem Statement

Nevertheless, against the backdrop of the great achievement, Feeding Leicester has no social media platforms to promote the cause and raise awareness within the region. All the initiatives by Feeding Leicester was summarised in a PDF file (which was not even wide-spread) – you may view it here.

The importance of setting up social media platforms for the advocacy is reflected in the social media pages of other pilots in Feeding Britain. Personally, I was impressed by Feeding Coventry’s effort. The Coventry pilot has their website and Twitter to continuously spread their work alongside other organisations and charities’ effort in “Growing the city and Tackling Poverty”. Here, online platform serves as an important “call-for-action” tool to publicise the cause and thus, attract more allies for both local and regional partnership.

Screengrabs from Feeding Coventry’s Website and Twitter

Interestingly, Feeding South Shield managed by its Labour MP, Emma Lewell-Buck, also the co-founder of Feeding Britain, do not have social media page for Feeding South Shield; whilst another co-founder Frank Field MP, also the Labour MP for Birkenhead has all the information about Feeding Birkenhead on his own website (as you can see below), but has no social media pages too.

Screengrabs from Frank Field MP’s Wesbite

What got into my mind?

Well, there are few things that pop into my mind when I first thinking about the problem of not having social media to raise awareness for a cause.
a) Why? Literally why can a social cause could go without social media presence.
b) Does the number of shares and likes matter?

Before John told us about D-number in class, I felt likes, shares and comments are sole indicators or measurements for the success of a social media campaign. I asked myself the same question when I researched about World Childless Week as I was wondering with the “not-so-great” number of likes and shares, does that even make it entitled as a “campaign”?

We’ve all experienced the power of this principle: whenever we take out a device and post something, we’re expecting an equal or greater reaction in a moment. – Brian Solis, the author of Social Media is about sociology and psychology more than technology.

D-number definitely makes me to rethink about what does “real engagement” and “meaningful connection” stand for. Jake shared in class about how Demon Media’s social media(s) is “community-centric” where it mainly serves the interests of the Demon members and DMU students. The same thing was shared by the representative from Radio2Funky during Week 9’s lab session – the radio station is a highly localised media that serves the interests of the Leicester community.

Content is now a commodity. Social media isn’t so social these days. People are now brands while brands try to be people. The goal is to talk to and through people and to build a community where the value of belonging is measured in how people feel and what they can do differently as a result of your engagement. – Brian Solis in Once Upon a Digital Time; How to Tell Amazing Stories When Everyone is a “Storyteller”

Well, before word of mouth could happen; before spreadability could take place; what we need to do with social media is to learn the ways in building the narratives that truly engage with and influence people that truly care. This way, the people we influenced will be able to influence his or her friends and the friends then influence their friends and so on.

It may be a gradual process. It may take time. It may cost a lot of our patience. But the most important thing lies on us and our beliefs in the meaningful connections behind the narratives. I would rather having 150 people who truly engage and stand alongside for a mutual goal, than “buying” 15,000 ghost accounts on social media who know nothing about the vision and mission of the cause.

What I felt could be done?

We will be working with our holiday hunger partners to see whether this important work can be extended to cover all schools holidays – Cllr Sarah Russell, deputy city mayor for children, young people

The upcoming holiday is Christmas. And The Trussell Trust, a community project that aimed to end poverty and hunger in UK through foodbanks that provide three-day emergency food supplies to people in crisis, released a new data last week showing that December was the busiest month for foodbanks in 2017. Most importantly, the figures revealed the year-on-year need for foodbanks in December is increasing steeply as you can see below.

With this, The Trussell Trust launched its Christmas campaign to help raise funds to support its network of foodbanks. The charity relies on voluntary donations to support its network of foodbanks to provide essential emergency food, offer additional support to tackle the underlying causes of someone’s crisis, and campaign for change to structural drivers of foodbank use.

Christmas holiday hunger is definitely another initiative that Feeding Leicester could consider, and the occasion also marks a perfect timing to establish social media accounts for our Leicester pilot.

Partnership with The Trussell Trust could be another opportunity to intensify the effort of ending hunger and poverty – as Actions Homeless and FareShare, the local organisations that came under the partnership of Feeding Leicester – have been in active collaborations with The Trussell Trust over the years.

On the other hand, similar collaborations could be done with #DMULocal. Last week, the university’s Students’ Union posted a Winter Appeal that called for donations of warm clothing and basic essentials. The collection will be sent to Paris and given out to refugees to keep them warm over the winter period.

Well, what sparked my mind was, we have a local community in Leicester that needs help to get through the winter too, though I understood #DMULocal and DMU Square Mile focus more on global initiatives.

It would be great if any potential cooperation could be done with Feeding Leicester and #DMULocal for the people having difficulties in this coming winter and Christmas!