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What is food poverty?

Food poverty is a term used a lot in the media and politics over the past few years, and particularly this year since Covid. Just like poverty it is a far reaching and complicated issue and it affects many people across the world including in Shropshire. 

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). Here are 5 facts about food poverty:

1. 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. 

In 2019 the government agreed to include questions on food insecurity into the annual Family Resources Survey, the results of this will come out in 2021.

2. 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: such as low income and benefits delays

  • Access to food: distance to shops, transport issues, quality of food available

  • Skills/knowledge: cooking, nutrition

3. Food poverty affects people both in and out of work. People on low income and working on zero hour contracts can struggle to afford food. Particularly as food prices rise and wages remain the same. 

4. Rural areas, like Shropshire, are particularly hard hit by food poverty. This is due to a “rural premium” - the basic cost of living can cost households £3000 more a year due to extra travel and heating costs.

Rural areas are also often classed as “food deserts” as local shops may only stock a limited range of food and residents have to travel to get all they need.

5. Poverty and poor health often go hand in hand as unhealthy food is more affordable than healthier choices. Unhealthy foods are three times cheaper than healthy foods, calorie for calorie. 70.3% of adults in Shropshire are classed as overweight or obese.


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