I have long thought that we could have a much better, fresher food network in North Tyneside.
We have great disparities of wealth and incomes in North Tyneside – some of the poorest 20% of wards in the country as well as some of the wealthiest. For example, in the Riverside and Chirton wards by the river, around 25% of children live in families experiencing absolute low income, whereas in St Mary’s the level is less than 5%. This disparity is reflected in life expectancy as well with people in Riverside having a life expectancy of about 4 yrs less than the borough average and the St Mary’s about 4 yrs more.
We are a borough which has a rural fringe, with land being cultivated both within and outside the borough. Unfortunately much of this cultivation is for cereal crops and animals rather than fruit and vegetables which could be consumed locally.
We have limited fresh food markets in the borough, the main one being at Tynemouth at the weekend. Most fresh food is obtained from the larger supermarkets but in the poorer areas of the borough there is a paucity of these too.
We have a disgraceful level of food poverty – along with the rest of the UK. We do have groups working to do something about this, including The Bay Food Bank, the Meadows Community Garden and the Innisfree community allotments in Longbenton. There are some community based initiatives which recycle food from supermarkets to those who need it, for example at the Big Local in Whitley Bay.
There is great potential in this borough for developing a fresh food network which would benefit people on low incomes as well as those who just love producing it and making it available to others.