Frank Field MP
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Feeding Birkenhead

Feeding Birkenhead is a coalition of churches, food banks, community groups, and other organisations working together to eliminate hunger in Birkenhead. It was established by Frank Field MP in 2014.

Here we explain the sheer range of activities that Feeding Birkenhead has undertaken and is developing. This loosely organised but highly effective coalition of local voluntary bodies operates so that:

- Poor hungry families are immediately helped
- These families can permanently prevent themselves from being engulfed again in hunger
- At the same time Feeding Birkenhead campaigns for its local successes to be spread across the nation as quickly as possible so that all families similarly placed are helped
- The results of its campaigns are developed in the national work that Feeding Britain plays in eliminating hunger as we know it today in our country

Feeding Birkenhead’s programme centres on three main projects, each of which is now being extended across the country by Feeding Britain – the national charity to which we belong.

School Holiday Meals and Activities

Feeding Birkenhead has established a project to provide free meals and activities for children during school holidays. Over the past three years, community groups in Beechwood, Central and North Birkenhead, Prenton, Rock Ferry, and Tranmere have provided this service for a total of 2,000 children. Most of those children receive free school meals during term time and would have been hungry in the absence of the project. Much of the food supplied by the project is sourced from local supermarkets’ surplus stocks which, while they are still of good quality, would otherwise be wasted. Fun activities offered by the project include arts, crafts, cooking, games, and sports.

School Breakfast Clubs

Having found that up to a quarter of children in some parts of Birkenhead arrive to school hungry each morning, Feeding Birkenhead is helping local schools to set up and maintain breakfast clubs, by tapping into a supply of breakfast products that are obtained by a charity called His Church (many of those products would otherwise have been thrown to waste, despite being perfectly edible). The equivalent of 156,000 breakfasts were distributed to schools in March 2017 alone. At the most recent event in November 2017, Feeding Birkenhead supplied 20 schools and community projects with enough breakfasts to feed 1,400 children. Donations from the public enable Feeding Birkenhead to fund the distribution to schools of fruit juice, fruit snacks, cereal, porridge, muesli, jams and spreads.

Food Bank Plus

Feeding Birkenhead has commissioned a joint project between Wirral Foodbank and Involve Northwest, to prevent people from experiencing prolonged periods of hunger. The project is delivered by a trained benefits advisor who is on hand to resolve people’s crises during their first visit to the food bank. Over the past three years, almost 1,000 people have received help from Food Bank Plus and half of them have had their crises addressed there and then, meaning they no longer had to visit the food bank.

Feeding Birkenhead has also brokered an agreement between Wirral Foodbank and npower for the delivery of one of the country’s first Fuel Banks. The Fuel Bank offers two-week credit vouchers for gas and electricity to those people who would otherwise be unable to afford the energy they require to cook the contents of their food parcel. Over the past two years, more than 6,000 people have been helped by this project.

Feeding Birkenhead is currently devising two further projects to prevent and relieve hunger.

Hot food for the destitute homeless

Feeding Birkenhead is working with the local authority to roll out a voucher scheme which enables the destitute homeless to receive hot meals, alongside intensive support, at participating cafes. Feeding Birkenhead has also provided Thermos flasks to dozens of homeless people, and organised for them to have free access to hot water and sachets of soup or pasta. Alongside this, Feeding Britain is campaigning to get the Ministry of Defence to divert its surplus ration packs to the destitute homeless. 

Feeding Birkenhead’s next moves

All of Feeding Birkenhead’s moves are made to help poor and hungry families improve their lot while at the same time using experience of working alongside these families in Birkenhead to give a human face and new cutting edge to Feeding Britain’s campaigns.

Citizens’ Supermarket

Feeding Birkenhead is setting up a Citizens’ Supermarket in the precinct to enable local families to buy their weekly shopping at a heavily discounted price; and, alongside this, to provide advice and advocacy on benefits, looking for work, debt, budgeting, and cooking, that will build those families’ resilience against hunger. All of the food will be sourced from food manufacturers’ surplus stocks, thereby preventing it from going to waste. 

Feeding Birkenhead has also begun influencing local policy to deliver gains for individuals and families who would otherwise be hungry.

Free school meal registration

Feeding Birkenhead has successfully campaigned for the local authority to use its Housing Benefit data automatically to register all eligible children for free school meals. This policy led to 600 more children being signed up for those meals, which triggered an additional £725,000 of previously unclaimed Pupil Premium funding towards their schooling.

All Feeding Birkenhead projects and campaigns are linked into Feeding Britain so that, in this instance, other local authorities can follow in the automatic registration of children eligible for free school meals and thereby Pupil Premium funding.

Cooking facilities

Feeding Birkenhead has successfully encouraged the local authority to include the provision of basic cooking facilities within the licensing criteria for private landlords seeking accreditation. 

Early Opportunity on Council Tax debt

Feeding Birkenhead has successfully campaigned for the local authority to take a more proactive approach in offering vulnerable residents an early opportunity to settle their Council Tax debts before they spiral out of control.

As with all of these initiatives the lessons learned from Feeding Birkenhead’s work are helping to shape national policy.

Energy prices

Feeding Birkenhead demonstrated how families on low incomes who use prepayment meters are asked to pay disproportionately large energy costs, as well as a series of one-off charges, which restrict their ability to afford food. Following our campaign, Ofgem implemented a price cap on prepayment meters – saving the average household up to £90 per year for the next three years – and abolished almost all one-off charges, to help level the playing field across the energy market. 

Tax credits and Child Benefit

Evidence from Feeding Birkenhead revealed how the transition between different types of tax credit claim was triggering a period of months without money for some families, during which they were at risk of being hungry. On the back of this evidence, HMRC began piloting a new programme to enable the conversion of single tax credit claims to joint claims over the telephone. In 2017, 55,000 claims were successfully converted in this way, with the new payment processed in eight days, rather than the eight weeks it would have taken under the previous system.

Further evidence from Feeding Birkenhead demonstrated how delays in the processing of Child Benefit could also cause financial hardship among families on low incomes. A second trial programme has been set up by HMRC to counter this problem, by digitally processing new claims where the parents do not include a birth certificate. Many thousands of claims so far have been processed in this way, when they would otherwise have been rejected and required a further submission. The loss of birth certificates under the previous system, and the delays this caused, had resulted in some families having to use food banks.

Benefit sanctions

Feeding Birkenhead produced evidence showing how, in some cases, sanctions are used against particularly vulnerable people whose behaviour should not have warranted a loss of benefit – their bus may have turned up late, or they had to take care of a close relative who had fallen ill, for example, which meant they could not make it to a Jobcentre Plus appointment.

The Department for Work and Pensions accepted the recommendation made by Feeding Britain, on the back of this evidence, for a Yellow Card warning system to protect this group of people from being wrongly sanctioned. During an initial trial period in parts of Scotland, over 500 people received such protection. Feeding Britain is now encouraging the Department to extend the system across the rest of the United Kingdom, beginning in Birkenhead.

Reformed Welfare Contract

Feeding Birkenhead has partnered with Birkenhead Jobcentre Plus to help people on low incomes make their limited resources stretch further. Once they have signed up to the duties they need to fulfil while claiming benefit, people making a new claim are informed of the support they can receive towards their utility costs, as well as helpful Freephone numbers to call if they are struggling to pay their bills. Over the past two years, more than 1,000 people have received this information. Having shared this practice with central government, the Department for Work and Pensions has confirmed that it will extend Feeding Birkenhead’s Reformed Welfare Contract to every Jobcentre Plus across the United Kingdom.  

Who We Work With

Feeding Birkenhead consists of dozens of organisations and individuals working hard to eliminate hunger in the town. Among them are schools, GPs, supermarkets, the Beechwood Community Trust, Charing Cross and Tranmere Methodist Churches, Bob’s Place, Citizens Advice Wirral, FareShare, Magenta Living, St Vincent de Paul, Wirral’s Homeless Angels, and:

The St. James Centre

North Birkenhead Development Trust is a charity which runs a multi-purpose community centre, The St James Centre in North Birkenhead.

The Centre runs a year-round community programme, including after school clubs for children, adult exercise classes, a youth club, courses for young people around mental health and wellbeing, cooking courses for families, crisis support, food bank, debt and benefits advice, support for homeless people, a weekly social supermarket called People’s Pantry, and lots more.

The Centre offers meals and activities on every day of the school holidays, supported by a wonderful team of volunteers. It also has a volunteer ran and led charity shop, St James Opportunity Shop, which aims to provide affordable access to clothing, household goods and more, as well as volunteering and work experience for adults with additional needs. 

344 Laird Street, Birkenhead
0151 670 9974
Eve Barrett –

Wirral Foodbank

Wirral Foodbank provides three days’ nutritionally balanced emergency food and support to local people who are referred to them in crisis situations. They act as part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK.

Unit 14 Wirral Business Centre, Dock Road, Birkenhead, CH41 1JW
0151 638 7090
Richard Roberts –

Wirral Play Council

Wirral Play Council is a charitable organisation that provides a year-round service to groups working with children. Every summer, Wirral Play Council organises free open-access playschemes for children aged 6-13. It also runs an Additional Needs Group, consisting of evening sessions and a Saturday morning session, each week, as well as daily throughout most school holidays, for children with varying additional needs.

1 Berner St, Birkenhead, CH41 4JY
0151 650 0030
Bev Peters –

Involve Northwest

Involve Northwest is a non-profit organisation, based in Birkenhead, offering a wide range of services to help improve quality of life of local individuals and families. The organisation provides services such as employment support, welfare and benefits advice and domestic abuse support, with a key objective of empowering and enabling local people through access to clear, concise information and guidance through a high-quality service.

334 New Chester Road, Rock Ferry, Wirral, CH42 1LE
0151 644 1100
Eddie Gowns –

The Hive, Wirral Youth Zone

Wirral Youth Zone, named by young people as ‘The Hive’, is a purpose-built facility for young people aged 8-19, and up to 25 for those with disabilities. Young people from across Wirral have access to fantastic facilities at a cost of £5 for an annual membership and 50p per visit. The Youth Zone provides a safe environment where young people can come and enjoy themselves and enables young people to raise their aspirations and confidence to create a happier and healthier generation.

Bright Street, Birkenhead, CH41 4EA
0151 705 8000
Adam Mellor –

Neo Community

Neo Community is a charity set up to fight against food waste and food poverty in the community. Through growing links with other community groups and Lidl, Neo began to offer surplus food to community members, through the first of Neo’s community food markets. Neo prides itself on being unique with its approach by going out and listening to what it is the community desires, which enables the creation of services that can be moulded around local needs and challenges.

Beaconsfield Community House, Rock Ferry, Wirral, CH42 3YN
07447 913888
Ema Wilkes –

Feeding Birkenhead’s activities are co-ordinated by Andrew Forsey in Frank Field MP’s House of Commons office, on 0207 219 6636 or

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