Health graduate tucks into evaluation of Northampton food and poverty programme

Date 18.01.2018

The University of Northampton has been appointed to lead an evaluation into the effectiveness of a collaborative and multidisciplinary food and poverty programme based in the town.

Natasha Bayes, researcher and graduate of the university’s Masters in Public Health course whose dissertation focused on people’s experiences of food poverty, has commenced the evaluation in collaboration with co-lead Dr Roz Collings (Senior Lecturer). The findings of the evaluation will be reported in late 2021.

The HUB partnership was created in June 2016 to look at what interventions work best to help people facing hardship crisis. These included:

  • Access to the food aid
  • Advice and advocacy from local partnerships such as Citizens Advice Bureau
  • Cookery courses, including information about budget shopping and reducing food waste
  • Creative workshops designed to help services users, or guests, ‘make, do and mend’
  • A money course to help guests devise a manageable budget and learn how to save.

The HUB partnership is led by Northampton food charity Re:store, in collaboration with the Springs Family Centre, Northampton Community Foundation and the Central and East Northamptonshire Citizen’s Advice Bureau.

The project is funded by the Big Lottery Fund’s ‘Help Through Crisis’ fund (now closed to applications) and the evaluation will involve two stages.

The first looks at reviewing the data collection tools designed to identify guests’ socio-economic circumstances and how they can be supported through the services.

For the second work stream, the research team will interview guests to find out if and how using the services has impacted them (such as their health and well being, life skills, employment status and access to crisis provision).

Researchers will speak with ‘Community Champions’ (guests who have benefitted from the services and promote these to new peopole) to see how this role can be further used to encourage life changes in guests.

They will also survey stakeholders to see how the partnership has worked and what changes are needed to make it work better in the future.

The evaluation will be rounded off with visits to key project partners to identify what is working and what can be improved.

Natasha commented: “The multidisciplinary services provided through the HUB partnership is of huge importance to people facing hardship crisis. It’s therefore important that we understand the effectiveness of the project in meeting its outcomes in supporting people facing socio-economic hardship to change their circumstances.

“It has been a pleasure working with Anya and the wider partners and I look forward to continuing to work with them over the next few years.”

Anya Willis, Director of Re:store in Northampton, added: “We’ve been proceeding at a great pace with our Hub partners, but to ensure the future success of the programme, we need an objective, in-depth look at what works, why and what our guests feel about the services we provide for them. At the end of the day, it’s their views that matter so we will be working with Natasha and her team on this evaluation.”

Notes to editors

Northampton Food Bank

The Food Bank started in 2013, which was followed by a large demand, resulting in 9,000 food parcels being distributed in 2014.

Food poverty is not something that can be tackled alone, so working with over 100 charities, social care organisations and churches, they aim to support vulnerable adults and families across Northampton. Their referral bases system works by supporting people in times of crisis and emergency, assessing needs and preventing dependency.

While giving food parcels is what is needed it time of crisis, it does not address the underlying issues and cause, because of this, in 2014 they started to offer a range of skills and confidence bases courses, such as cooking, an allotment, money management and occupational therapy support.

Food Parcels can be collected across Northampton 6 days a week. Two of these sessions at based Re:store HUB. The HUB is a community cafe which is open to anyone, 70% of people who come through their doors receive some form of support or skills on top of the provision of a free hot meal. They hope to strike the balance between acceptance and motivation to get help through crisis, by doing rather with rather than do to.