NOUN: the state of being without reliable access to a sufficient quantity of affordable, nutritious food.
synonyms: food poverty
Food insecurity (or food poverty) is one of the many inequities and challenges in our society that has been exacerbated and highlighted by the Coronavirus pandemic.
It can result from financial constraints (the lack of money to buy the food) as well as physical barriers (such as rural isolation or access to transport) and both its causes and consequences are complex and wide-ranging.
Inflation and the rising cost of living, employment opportunities, supply chain issues, access to education, physical and mental health and wellbeing are just some of the factors that can affect an individual’s access to the quantity and quality of food that they need.
Did you know?
Even before the pandemic …
- the probability of low-income adults in the UK being food insecure was rising, from 27.7% in 2004 to 45.8% in 2016
Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2019
- 3 million children (31%) were already living in relative poverty in the UK
DWP, Households Below Average Income, 2019/20
Covid-19 has placed many that had been “getting by” into food poverty. Already fragile strategies to eke out household income – by buying lower quality food or missing meals – have buckled under the pressure of sudden job losses, reduced working hours and increasing debt levels:
Over 50% of those using Trussell Trust foodbanks at the start of the pandemic had never needed one before, and families with children were the hardest hit, accounting for nearly two in five households needing to use a food bank. Sustain
Foodbanks provide a vital and immediate lifeline to those that find themselves in food poverty. However, this is only ever a short term, reactive response to long-term systemic problems and so we now see our communities working to provide a fuller response to food insecurity, through initiatives such as community pantries, affordable box schemes and community cafes providing meals at low cost to those in financial crisis.
The steps needed to truly eradicate food insecurity in the UK are as myriad as their causes and involve welfare, housing and labour market reform. In the meantime, Foodbanks and our voluntary and community sector more widely, continue to play a pivotal role in developing innovative, sustainable and dignified ways of providing support for those that need it.