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Food Poverty in Shropshire

Food poverty is an issue affecting many people 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.​


​Food poverty levels in Shropshire are rising


  • Food banks across the county are reporting an increase in referrals

  • 81% of respondents to our survey felt that food poverty has increased in the last year

  • Citizens Advice Shropshire estimate that 27,000 families in the county will have their food budgets reduced due to changes to the benefits system

“I can't afford healthy food like fruit and vegetables, it breaks my heart because I want to be a good mother”


(Survey response from female 35-44 Market Drayton)

“Many of our children struggle with learning as they are hungry or have had inappropriate breakfast that doesn't fill them up or is too high in sugar. This can affect concentration, days off due to illness, toothache and all of these factors impact on learning, attainment and can also affect behaviour.”


(Shropshire primary school)


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).

There is currently no national measurement of how many people are in food poverty, but UN research suggests that 4.2% of the UK population is in severe food insecurity, the second highest level in Europe.

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

After working full time all of his adult life, Mark had a stroke in his 40s. Whilst waiting for his benefits claims to be sorted out he has built up a number of debts. He is concerned about the recent change to council tax in Shropshire, meaning that he will need to pay £5.50 towards his council tax. He says “to me £5.50 is eggs, bread, milk, potatoes. Now they want to take that out of my pocket, and I’ve not paid it, I’m not going to pay it.”

  • 1 in 5 children in Shropshire are classified as living in poverty 

  • A quarter of people living in the West Midlands live in poverty, and in 60% of cases they have been in this situation for more than two years

  • Over half of all lone parent households are living in poverty 

  • Nearly half of all people affected by poverty in the UK are living in households with a disabled person  

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 issues

low incomes

benefit delays

Access to food

rural living

distance to shops

transport issues


healthy diet

cooking skills

Financial causes of food Poverty in Shropshire

Increased cost of living


After housing, fuel and power costs food is the largest expenditure for low income households, at 14.3% of their income. Food prices rose 28% in UK between 2007 and 2016, but average household incomes rose 5.1% in the same time period. When incomes are squeezed, 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 (37% of jobs) & much work is insecure (zero hours contracts) 

  • Average hourly rate is low (£12.85), falling far short of the national average (£14)

  • 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 (1.2% claiming out of work benefits July 2018)

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

  • Shropshire will see an annual loss of £102,000,000 per year when all the benefit cuts announced since 2010 have taken effect 

  • 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. 

Shropshire has higher than national average number of benefits claims due to sickness or disability (8,600 people Apr 2017-Mar 2018)

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


  • 25% of households living in poverty are behind on paying household bills 

  • UK Household bill debts amounted to £19 billion in 2017-18 

  • Shropshire Citizens Advice Service helped 1180 clients in 2017/18 with their debt issues

Financial Causes

Access to food in Shropshire

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

  • few support services located in rural areas

  • poor broadband speeds/ limited mobile reception

  • high transport costs/ limited public transport

Hay Barrels
Access Issues

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.  

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

5 factors.PNG

Nutrition and Cooking Skills

Nutrition & Cooking Skill

When incomes are squeezed, food is often the only part of a household budget which can be cut. Families on extremely low food budgets tend to focus on foods which are filling, rather than foods which have optimum health benefits.

The UK government recommends that we all plan our meals using the nutritional advice in the Eatwell Guide. Research suggests that this costs £41.93 per person per week. Households living on low incomes will spend significantly less. 


70.3% of adults in Shropshire are overweight or obese. Poverty and Obesity often go hand in hand. With poor diets impacting on health. The cost to the NHS of diet related ill health has been estimated at £6 billion per year.

We can prevent food poverty by addressing the underlying causes

Financial issues

Low income

Benefits delays

Debt & budgeting

Money advice to increase financial resilience

Access to food




Price of food

Increased access to low cost healthy food


Healthy diet

Cooking confidence

Improved knowledge on nutrition and cooking

Living in a house share, Peter keeps his food in his bedroom so that it isn’t eaten by his 6 housemates. Unable to use the fridge or freezer, he relies on tinned and packaged foods, which he separates out into weekly piles. He tries to make the food last the month, but he says “sometimes you get to the stage where you are just really, really hungry and you’ve got to eat”. As the month goes on he just eats less. This month he has been unable to find any work. “I’ve been trying to portion my food, but it got down to a tin of soup a day. It got to be a struggle”. He came into the food bank on a Friday morning, but had not eaten since Tuesday.

Menu for Action

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