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Within: Food Poverty

Related to: Barriers to Healthy Eating – Physical FactorsBarriers to Healthy Eating – Social FactorsDiet and Malnutrition, Socio-economic Inequality, Cost of Living, Child Poverty, Children and Young People, Eating Disorders, Life Expectancy, Healthy Weight, Physical Activity, Wellbeing, Diabetes Stroke, Coronary Heart Disease, Cancer

Key Facts

  • Food affordability in the UK has worsened between 2007 – 2016 due to rising food prices and living costs and a reduction in median income.
  • In 2015 the lowest income families in the UK purchased 11% less fruit and 6.5% less vegetables than in 2007 and increased purchases of calorie-dense types of food.
  • National research indicates that in the UK in 2014 52% more fruit and vegetables were purchased by people from the wealthiest areas compared to those from the poorest areas.
  • Use of emergency food aid in the UK, particularly in the form of food banks, has increased significantly over the last decade.
  • There are 3 food banks across B&NES including. Bath, Somer Valley, and Keynsham which collectively operate 8 food bank centres providing emergency food for people in crisis.

Definitions

Low income - The most commonly used threshold to determine relative low income is having an income which is less than 60% of the median in that year. Absolute low income is considered to be having an income which is less than 60% of the median in that year, adjusted by the inflation level. 1

What does the data say?

Food Affordability and effect on UK household food purchases

Food affordability in the UK has worsened between 2007 – 2016 due to rising food prices and living costs and a reduction in median income. All food groups have risen in price since 2007 (the start of the recession) with rises ranging from 22% to 42% (see figure 1). 2

Fruit has risen in price by 31% and vegetables by 23% between June 2007 and June 2015. This accounts for a total food price rise of 8% in real terms between 2007 – 2015 following gradual price reductions since a price peak in 2013. Simultaneously median income for low income decile households (after housing costs) fell 6% between 2003 – 04 and 2013 – 14 exerting further pressure on living costs.  3

Figure1: UK retail price changes by food group, 2007 to 2015 4

Figure 2: UK trend in food prices in real terms, January 1996 to December 2015 5

Food purchases by UK households have changed over the recent period of food price rises and recession. Evidence suggests that, on average, the nutritional quality of foods purchased declined from 2005 –07 to 2010-12 as households substituted towards less healthy food types, mainly towards processed foods and away from fruit and vegetables. 6 7

Low income households and diet

Food price rises have a particularly strong effect on food shopping for low income households. Food price rises are more difficult for low income households to cope with because they spend a greater proportion of their income on food and therefore a rise in food prices has a disproportionately large impact on the money they have available to spend elsewhere. 8 This evidence suggests that food affordability can significantly influence food choice and dietary quality.

i)                    Fruit and vegetable consumption – national picture

In 2015 the lowest income families in the UK purchased 11% less fruit and 6.5% less vegetables than in 2007 and increased purchases of calorie-dense types of food and substitution to more calorific food products within food types. 9 10

National research also indicates that in the UK in 2014 52% more fruit and vegetables were purchased by people from the wealthiest areas (highest quintiles) compared to those from the poorest areas to (lowest quintiles) (see figure 3). Therefore it showed that people from the wealthiest areas in 2014 purchased on average 4.8 portions of fruit and vegetables per person per day compared to an average of 3 portions by those from the poorest areas. 11

Figure 3: UK dietary indicators by equivalised income 12

ii)                    Fruit and vegetable consumption – local picture

Bath and North East Somerset generally has a higher than national known fruit and vegetable consumption prevalence in England however the percentage of people eating at least 5 portions of fruit and vegetables a day is lower in areas of greater deprivation.  Data collected by the NHS Information Centre for Health and Social Care in 2007 suggested that Lyncombe had the highest model based estimated percentage of consumption of 5 pieces of fruit and veg a day with 38%, compared to the lowest of 19% in Twerton. 13

Results taken from the B&NES Child Health Behaviour Survey in 2015 indicate that amongst B&NES Year 8 and Year 10 pupils, pupils eligible for free school meals at any point in the last 6 years (FSM Ever6 pupils) were eating fewer fruit and vegetables than those pupils who were not eligible (Non-FSM Ever6 pupils) (see figure 4). 14

Figure 4: Fruit and vegetable consumption by Year 8 and 10 Secondary School Pupils in B&NES 15

iii)                    Unhealthy weight and obesity

The National Childhood Measurement Program (NCMP) measures and monitors the weight of reception and year 6 school children across B&NES. According to the NCMP living in a relatively deprived area appears to be a significant factor in levels of childhood obesity, especially for Year 6 aged children, where rates of obesity are almost twice for the bottom two local quintiles compared to the top local quintile (using the 2010 Income Deprivation Affecting Children Index IDACI). NCMP data shows that as children get older, the relationship between obesity and deprivation increases. 16

For more information please see the Healthy Weight page.

Use of food welfare support in Bath and North East Somerset

Free School Meals

The Government’s Universal Infant Free School Meal (UIFSM) programme offers free school meals to all pupils in government – funded schools in reception, year 1 and year 2. There is an average 70% UIFSM uptake across Bath and North East Somerset 17. Free school meals are available to all children whose families are on a low income or benefits and meet certain eligibility criteria.

Healthy Start Vouchers

Healthy Start1 (HS) is a UK Government scheme set up to provide a nutritional safety net for pregnant women, breastfeeding mothers, and children aged under four years in very low income families, and to encourage them to eat a healthier diet. The HS scheme provides vouchers to use to assist in the purchase of milk, fresh or frozen fruit and vegetables, and infant formula milk. Coupons to exchange for free vitamin supplements via the National Health Service (NHS) are also given. There is a 75% uptake of healthy start vouchers in B&NES which is higher than the national average. 18

Use of emergency food support

Food bank use

Use of emergency food aid in the UK, particularly in the form of food banks, has increased significantly over the last decade. 19 The Trussel Trust operate a network of 424 food banks across the UK which provide  emergency food and support to people experiencing crisis.  20

There has been a national annual increase in food bank use between 2008 – 2016, with 1,109,309 parcels of 3 day emergency food supplies given to people in crisis by the Trussell Trust in 2015/16, compared to 25,899 in 2008/09.  This is a measure of volume rather than unique users, and on average, people needed two foodbank referrals in the last year (see figure 5). 21

Figure 5: Number of 3 day emergency food supplies given by Trussell trust foodbanks 22

Food bank use is usually the result of an immediate income crisis. The primary reasons for foodbank use in 2015/2016 were changes and delays to benefit payments accounting for 42% of all referrals (28% benefit delay; 14% changes) (see figure 6). Low income accounts for 23% of referral causes, rising from 22% in 2014 – 2015. 23

Figure 6: Primary reasons for referral in 2015-2016 to Trussell Trust foodbanks  24

Are we meeting the needs?

B&NES Council and partners are delivering a number of interventions to increase the provision of and access to healthy, nutritious and affordable food for those who might otherwise go hungry or suffer malnutrition.

B&NES Local Food Partnership

A multi-agency Local Food Partnership has been set up by Bath and North East Somerset Council to oversee the implementation of the Bath and North East Somerset Local Food Strategy and to co-ordinate action on food issues across the Council and the district. The vision of the Partnership is for B&NES to be a place where everyone can access good quality, safe, affordable food and enjoy a healthy diet, with more locally produced food that sustains the environment and supports the local economy. 

Food banks and emergency food provision

There are 3 food banks across Bath and North East Somerset including. Bath, Somer Valley, and Keynsham which collectively operate 8 food bank centres providing emergency food for people in crisis. 25

There are a number of other community interventions providing emergency food for people in need. The Genesis Trust run a range of projects for homeless people including a daily soup run and subsidised lunch boxes and Sunday Centre meals. Food Cycle provides a free weekly 3 course meal cooked by volunteers. 

Food in educational settings and uptake of free school meals

Bath and North East Somerset Council have put in place a Food Forum to support all aspects of food in schools, colleges and early year settings including initiatives to support the provision of free school meals for infants, to provide healthier diets for children and to support the provision of food education and activities. The Food Forum provides a package of support for the roll out of Universal Infants Free School Meals (UIFM) and to increase overall school meal uptake. Average school meal uptake has increased from 40% in 2013 to 59.75% in 2015 and there is an average 70% UIFSM uptake across Bath and North East Somerset. 26

The Food Forum supports the provision of healthier food for children by supporting educational settings to implement the school food standards and to sign up and work towards the healthy eating requirements of the Director of Public Health Award (DPHA). In B&NES 25 schools currently hold the DPHA “healthy schools certificate” and 37 have achieved it since the award programme began in 2012 (47%) 27 A further 11 schools and the FE college have chosen healthy eating as a focus for their work towards the “healthy outcomes certificate” choosing activities such as increasing the number of children eating school meals, and providing cooking and food growing education in school. 28 Academies do not have to enforce the statutory school food standards however they are being supported to sign up voluntarily to the standards. 

For other interventions see Barriers to Healthy Eating – Physical Factors and Barriers to Healthy Eating – Social Factors