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Food Poverty in Shropshire

Families and individuals are being financially squeezed as a result of increases in the cost of living combined with low wage increases and the cumulative impact of welfare reforms. People in work and out of work are affected. Food poverty is an issue which affects all ages but there are particular concerns for the youngest and oldest in society, and people who cannot work due to disability or long-term sickness.​

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What is Food Poverty?

 

Food Poverty can be defined as “the inability of individuals and households to obtain an adequate and nutritious diet because they cannot afford healthy food”. It can be temporary (crisis) or can last for long periods of time (chronic food poverty).

Measurements of poverty across the UK provide an indication of the scale of the problem.

Picture: Locations of food banks in the UK (2024)

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What causes Food Poverty?

The causes of food poverty are complex. For people with low financial resilience an unexpected life event can quickly spiral into financial crisis and food poverty. 

 

In in many cases food poverty is caused by a combination of factors, including financial, access to food, cost-of-living, etc. 

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Financial causes of food poverty

Increased cost of living

 

Prices of food and non-alcoholic beverages rose by 8.0% in the year to December 2023. Meanwhile the OBR forecasted that real household disposable incomes per head will only increase by 0.3% in 2023, and fall by 1.5% in 2024. Food is often the only part of a household budget which can be cut.

 

Shropshire is a low wage economy

  • Employment is high (81%) but part time working is also high (34.9% of jobs) & much work is insecure (zero hours contracts) 

  • Average hourly rate is low (£16.23), falling far short of the national average (£17.5)

  • Low income workers are increasingly struggling to cover the costs of a minimum income standard 

People in and out of work have been hit hard by changes to the benefits system

  • Shropshire has a low level of unemployment (2.2% compared to 3.7% nationally)

  • Since 2010, 45 benefits have been capped, scrapped, frozen or reduced

  • 27,000 families in Shropshire will be impacted, many of whom are receiving in work benefits to top up low incomes

 

People with health issues are often unable to improve their financial situation

 

  • Many people in Shropshire fall into food poverty because of health issues or disability. 

  • 80% of people getting advice from Citizens Advice at food banks in Shropshire had a long term health condition or disability. 

  • People with long term illness or disability have been particularly affected by changes to the benefit system

  • Food banks across Shropshire report high levels of people with mental health issues seeking help with food

Many people on low incomes or benefits fall into debt

 

Access to Food

Shropshire is one of the least densely populated counties in England. Rural areas are particularly hard hit by food poverty.

 

  • a 'rural premium' on living expenses can cost rural households an additional £3000 per year

  • many rural areas are classed as ‘food deserts’. Local shops offer limited food choices, making it necessary to travel

  • there are few support services located in rural areas

  • there is poor broadband speeds/ limited mobile reception, and high transport costs/ limited public transport

Mapping Food Poverty

There is no national measure of food poverty, and no previous research undertaken on which parts of Shropshire might have the highest levels of food poverty. With the help of CREST at University Centre, Shrewsbury we have explored a number of indicators to examine which areas of the county are most at risk. The map combines five key food poverty indicators, with the darker red areas highlighting areas at higher risk of food poverty. It is clear that this is an issue which is affecting both urban and rural parts of the county.  

Map of food poverty in Shropshire

Indicators used:

  • Food retail businesses per square km

  •  benefits claimants

  • adult obesity

  • households with slow internet access

  • households without access to a vehicle

  • The location of food banks is also marked

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