Feeling the Pinch: Have Your Say – Lewes District Residents talk about their experiences of Food Insecurity

Ruby Makepeace Somerville, Coordinator of LDFP and Jane Perry, independent social researcher, have been running Lewes District Food Partnership’s ‘Feeling the Pinch: Have Your Say!’ project, which involves participants from across Lewes District (including coastal strip towns of Peacehaven, Newhaven, and Seaford and rural areas) sharing their stories and experiences of living through the Cost-of-Living Crisis.This work aims to raise awareness about the realities of everyday life for many of those who live in Lewes District whilst challenging misconceptions around food insecurity. This is a participatory project where the topics discussed and the stories told are driven by engagement with the communities they represent. One participant said “to be treated so badly, then when you get a little bit of help, you’re told to be grateful, it’s awful and I don’t have a voice”.

Current financial and food insecurities facing residents were not all caused by the Cost-of-Living Crisis or Covid-19, the increase in the use of foodbanks can be dated back to changes in the welfare system and financial crashes in the first decade of the 2000s, yet these recent unprecedented events have affected everyone, and they feel it’s important to reflect on the impact it has had and continues to have.The partnership has developed a panel of ‘experts by lived experience’ who have been taking part in a series of workshops, the aim of the project is to build confidence to tell stories and make sure real people’s experiences are being heard.
The reality being for many that they “feel invisible” and that they’re “on the outside of society, looking in” due to how isolating living with financial and food insecurity can be.

Last week, Ruby co-facilitated the ‘Truth Hearing’, to showcase the stories of Lewes District residents and their experiences of the Cost of Living Crisis and of food insecurity.It was attended by over 25 community partners, including councillors from town councils, Lewes District Council and East Sussex County Council as well as representatives from Care for the Carers, Food Matters, SCDA, Lewes Citizens Advice, Church action on Poverty, Homelink, NHS social prescribers and more.This is just the start of a process to get lived-experiences centre stage in local decision making – look out for Ruby, who will be doing a Facebook Live with the leader of Lewes District Council later this month, along with one of the experts by experience.

Some feedback from the day:

“Clear & honest lived experienced. Very moving & important.”

“Important conversations, which are needed so that actions can be addressed and taken.”

“Great to hear shared thoughts & ideas and to hear what the issues are, but also come up with solutions.”

“Thank you for putting this workshop on – more please!”

“I feel flattered that this many people came to listen to me”

“This project has helped me enormously, I feel less shame now”

if you’d like to know more about the project or how you can get involved email info@lewesdistrictfoodpartnership.org

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