The Power of Food: Community experiences of tackling food insecurity

As we move forward from the Covid-19 pandemic, the Government needs to go beyond just the current support they are providing to truly tackle food insecurity. Our new report suggests that the Government is failing to ensure longer term interventions exist to help people move out of food insecurity.

New research has found that people feel the Government support provided during the pandemic was insufficient, including Universal Credit not going far enough. A survey of people vulnerable to food insecurity found that a large majority (74%) don’t feel the Government is doing very much to help.

The report is calling for the Government to introduce funding to help tackle food insecurity by creating environments that improve social capital for those on low incomes. A Community Infrastructure Grant should be created to develop better social infrastructure locally, which is desperately needed to tackle food insecurity in the long-term.

The new research – including responses to the survey and interviews with people facing food insecurity – suggests that the quality of food from community groups was also much higher during the pandemic than what people on low-incomes would get in normal supermarkets or from government schemes. Respondents of direct government support often recalled being sent or receiving poor quality food that either simply wasn’t enough, lacked quality, or was unhealthy. This meant insufficient food was provided to some of the most vulnerable members of society during the pandemic without adequate oversight.

The Power of Food, sponsored by the British Poultry Council, also recommends:

  • The government should ensure there is funding for direct services, for example cooking lessons, by ring-fencing public health spending for community groups that safeguard access to healthy food.
  • The government should pilot a local Food Ladder Strategy to ensure all local governments have the resources to develop these inclusive spaces and pioneer different models of service.
  • National and local policy makers should take a ‘Food First’ approach to tackling food insecurity –  an approach that begins with providing good food alongside other opportunities to users that can help make them more food secure, for example by raising their income.

Rose Lasko-Skinner, Senior Researcher at Demos and co-author of The Power of Food, said:

“For most of us, food is about far more than calories and nutrition – our sense of self-worth, confidence and dignity are often deeply connected to our ability to access good food. Our social and family lives often revolve around what we eat too. Yet approaches that focus on direct food provision or raising income levels alone often fail to recognise the complex needs that people who are food insecure face, and have overlooked the potential for services to do both.

“It’s time that the Government takes a more holistic approach to tackle food insecurity in the long-term, including building social infrastructure and community relationships, to give vulnerable people the connections, access to good quality food, and dignity they deserve.”

Read the full report here.

Updated on 05/10/2021