Birmingham journalists launch #foodsos as thousands go hungry in city every day

“People are starving in our rich city.” A powerful statement led off BirminghamLive’s new FoodSOS campaign — a response to the grim realities that sit behind the ‘cost of living’ phrase which has become ubiquitous in recent months.

FoodSOS launched this week across BirminghamLive and sister newspaper Birmingham Mail with the intention of helping people in practical ways.

New research by the Food Foundation thinktank found at least one in 20 people in the city — the equivalent of 55,000 people — had gone a full day or more without eating in April. Around one in seven are ‘food insecure’ — not certain about their next access to food. Thousands more — including children — report they now have smaller meals than usual, regularly skip meals altogether or do not eat when they are hungry.

Powerful journalism sits at the heart of the campaign — telling stories compassionately with people who are struggling to make ends meet. People who can help are then urged to donate food, money or time in response.

In a launch article, people and politics editor Jane Haynes told the story of one elderly lady supported by a city foodbank. She’s in her 70s, and travels four miles by bus to the foodbank. She tells volunteers she’s coming for her friend, but volunteers suspect it is her who is struggling, yet is too proud to say so.

Numbers attending foodbanks in Birmingham have doubled in the past few weeks. At a local mosque, 20 people used to attend a foodbank. Now more than 100 are in the queue when it opens — often waiting hours and hoping supplies don’t run out.

#FoodSOS has been launched in collaboration with what is being termed the ‘food frontline’ — organisations already out and about trying to make a difference, but struggling to keep up with surges in demand.

In her article, Jane wrote: “It’s an emergency call to action from the hundreds of food heroes helping people, from babies to the retired.

“For those in a position to help, we’re calling on you to donate food, donate money or donate time.

“And to those who are struggling, we want you to know there is help available. With a combined effort, we hope to be able to increase the levels of support, and signpost those most in need to that help.

“We have teamed up with the city’s food justice network, which united at the start of the first lockdown to ensure vulnerable and isolated people shielding at home received food. Though officially ended, the group members’ WhatsApp group and collaborative work continued.

The campaign also aims to make it easier for people to find help. A map of locations of foodbanks, including details of which ones require formal referrals and which ones don’t, has been produced. Parenting editor Zoe Chamberlain has also produced a guide to how to access free food and holiday clubs over the summer holidays.

Agenda editor Richard Guttridge has written a number of articles which reveal just how tough life has become for people in Birmingham. In one, struggling mum-of-three Jane Platt reveals how she now eats her daughter’s scraps — and only gets one regular meal a week.

Richard also reported on a food bank so overwhelmed it is now closing two days a week due to demand. BirminghamLive has chronicled the increasing challenges facing foodbanks for months now.

  • In 2022, Behind Local News aims to celebrate local journalism in all its forms through our 365 Acts of Local Journalism Project. Lets us know what you think should be included. You can email us here or contact us via Twitter on BehindLocalNews or on Facebook here.

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