A Bucks New University campaign backed by the Bucks Free Press will launch with a debate on fighting food poverty in High Wycombe this month - and the community is urged to come along and share their views.

A recent report from the University of Sheffield highlighted how the most ethnically diverse and deprived area in Buckinghamshire has the UK’s highest levels of ‘food insecurity’ – the inability to consistently afford, access and utilise the food needed to maintain good health and wellbeing.

The debate, on Thursday, October 28, will be chaired by BNU’s Vice-Chancellor, Professor Nick Braisby, and panellists include representatives from Buckinghamshire Council, One Can Trust, Wycombe Women’s Aid, Wycombe Food Hub, Heart of Bucks and Khepera CIC.

The debate, at the Gateway Lecture Theatre from 6pm to 7.30pm, aims to shed light on the nature of the challenges facing Wycombe residents, as well as inform actions to address food poverty locally.

BNU and the Students’ Union already play their part in tackling different types of poverty among students and the local community. Last year, they joined forces with the Beauty Banks charity to help local people living in hygiene poverty with its Give to Refresh initiative.

The university also runs a Bucks New Usage scheme at its High Wycombe campus that upcycles student donations of household items for fellow students, with any remaining items donated to YMCA High Wycombe.

A recent joint initiative by the university and Bucks Students’ Union is tackling period poverty among students and staff, while food banks are available for students who need them at both the university’s High Wycombe and Uxbridge campuses.

During October half-term last year, Bucks SU opened its onsite café to provide school-aged children in need with a free hot meal throughout the week using donations from online fundraising.

The poster

The poster

Commenting on the upcoming event, Professor Braisby said: “This important debate comes at a difficult time for our community with families facing a loss of income as the cost of living rises for everyone.

“As an institution, we do everything we can to support our students facing financial difficulties – many of whom come from Wycombe and local surrounding areas.

“As a civic university, we are keen to do whatever we can to support our local community too. I hope that anyone who is interested in contributing their experiences, expertise and ideas to addressing food poverty in Wycombe will come along to have their say and listen to others.”

Graham Peart, Chair of One Can Trust, said: “One Can Trust, the Wycombe food bank, has collected valuable statistical data over 10 years while supplying emergency food parcels to those in need across South Bucks.

“Research continues by calling clients to establish the causes of their poverty and where appropriate, offering further assistance to assist transition to a more stable financial position.

“Evolving data suggests that a fundamental transformation in the approach to relieving poverty could deliver encouraging results.”

Chairman for the High Wycombe Community Board and deputy cabinet member for communities at Bucks Council, Cllr Arif Hussain, added: “We are very aware that a number of people across Buckinghamshire and in particular in the Wycombe area are struggling with household costs and ensuring they are able to get food on the table.

“We have been working closely with voluntary, community and social enterprise organisations to ensure there is support for these households in the short term.

“It is essential that we develop a model that is sustainable for the medium-long term. This debate will be a great opportunity to hear from local people, groups and organisations about how they think we can collaboratively achieve this, helping people get back on their feet.”

The Bucks Free Press is proud to be part of the campaign to tackle food poverty in High Wycombe and will be covering the debate on October 28.

Audience and Content Editor Stephanie Wareham said: “As the local paper for the area, we hear far too often how people are struggling to get by, particularly after the intense difficulty of the past year and a half.

“No one in Buckinghamshire - or anywhere for that matter - should be going hungry. It is vital that we all do what we can to fight food poverty in High Wycombe and we are proud to partner with these important local agencies to tackle the issue.”

To register to attend the debate at the High Wycombe BNU campus, go online to www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/fighting-food-poverty-in-high-wycombe-have-your-say-tickets-169324834137 - it is free to attend.