A petition has been launched to ensure Brent residents always have access to safe, affordable food across their lifetime.

A Brent Right To Food campaign was launched at the Granville Garden and Community Kitchen, in Kilburn, on July 10 with a petition calling on Brent Council leader Muhammad Butt to declare Brent a Right to Food Borough with its own Food Justice strategy.

Representatives of food-related initiatives in Brent met to discuss the best way to address food insecurity in the borough.

The campaign aims to ensure all Brent residents have access to safe, affordable, nutritious and culturally-appropriate food every day across their whole lifetime.

Dee Woods, of the Granville Kitchen, said: "We are overwhelmed helping 1,200 people a week with food aid.

"Our aim is to enable people to access food in a more dignified manner by being able to to afford food in their local area."

The pandemic has exacerbated existing food insecurity, with a huge increase in emergency council assistance and the use of food banks.

Co-convenor of the campaign Ryan Hack volunteers at the Trussell Trust food bank in Church End.

Between March 31, 2020 and April 1, 2021, the Brent Food Bank provided almost 16,500 emergency food parcels to people facing food poverty in Brent.

Ryan got involved with the campaign "because the impact of austerity on social housing and food banks has deeply shaped my life".

He added: "After witnessing my father begin to use food banks last year, I became a volunteer at the very same food bank that helped to feed him in my local community.

"As a former student at Preston Park Primary School and Claremont High School who received free school meals, I know personally how the issue of food insecurity for children has been alive in our borough for decades.

"Before electronic fingerprinting became the contemporary method to de-marginalize us from the lunch queue, I remember having to wait for my brown paper bag before school trips or having to wait separately for my lunch tickets.

"I raise this issue because so many children in this borough have a deep story of struggle and perseverance over hardship, particularly the 10,000 children in Brent who get free school meals today."

Sufra NW London food aid reported a 200 per cent increase in demand for food aid during the first three months of the pandemic, and fear the situation will deteriorate as the furlough scheme is scrapped and rent eviction bans are lifted.

Sufra director Rajesh Makwana, said: "Even though the Right to Food is the most basic of all internationally agreed human rights, many thousands of families in Brent are still forced to choose between buying food or paying their bills.

"Recognising the Right to Food in Brent is a crucial first step towards ending dependence on food banks and establishing more effective ways to ensure that all families can access healthy, nutritious food."

Alex Colás, who launched the petition, said: "Food poverty is the result of structural injustices connected to health, housing, employment and wider social inequalities.

"It needs systemic solutions that empower communities with public resources, including land, retail space and procurement directed toward a more just and sustainable local food system."

During the pandemic, Brent Council delivered more than 20,000 food parcels to 3,500 families and provided supermarket vouchers for children entitled to Free School Meals.

However the council did not say whether it supports the campaign to declare Brent a Right to Food Borough.

Cllr Eleanor Southwood, welfare and housing chief, said: "We’re doing all in our gift to eradicate modern-day hunger in Brent.

"The Poverty Commission that the council launched last year has helped us better understand the causes and consequences of poverty in Brent.

"Tackling these underlying inequalities is what drives our work.”

She added: "Food poverty is not a standalone issue.

"We’re here to support families to become financially resilient enough to afford to eat well.

"We’re also here to support initiatives that increase the availability of good quality local produce and promote equal access to it, through community gardens and support of local businesses."

To sign the petition visit: www.change.org/p/leader-of-the-council-muhammed-butt-declare-brent-a-right-to-food-borough