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Wider determinants of health

Household Food Insecurity

The Food Standards Agency defines food insecurity as: “Limited or uncertain availability of nutritionally adequate and safe foods or limited or uncertain ability to acquire acceptable food in socially acceptable ways, eg without resorting to emergency supplies, scavenging, stealing or other coping strategies.”

The inability to ensure access to healthy and nutritious food has the potential to impact every stage of life, affecting development, wellbeing and life chances. Children in food insecure households are more likely to develop asthma, depression and other chronic conditions. Their growth and development are impaired and learning is poorer. People experiencing food insecurity are less likely to be able to access good nutrition. This increases the chances of diet-related health problems, including obesity. One in three cancer deaths and one in two heart disease deaths are caused by poor diet. Stress caused by food insecurity can also adversely affect mental wellbeing. A severely food insecure person is five times more likely to experience anxiety disorders and major depressive episodes than someone who has access to adequate food.

There are financial as well as health costs. It's 2-3 times more expensive to treat someone who is malnourished in the UK, compared to someone who is properly nourished.

Currently, food insecurity statistics are not comprehensively measured by national government. In 2019, the Greater London Authority published its first survey on household food security in the capital. The findings showed that almost 1 in 4 Southwark residents had low food security. This means that 75,000 Southwark residents could be skipping meals or cutting down on quantities eaten due to lack of money, do not have funds to afford balanced meals and may be experiencing real hunger.

Marginalised and vulnerable groups are at higher risk of being food insecure, heightening inequalities in society. Foodbank statistics from 2017-18, showed that the largest groups presenting for help in Southwark were those experiencing delays or problems receiving benefits, those on low incomes and those without recourse to public funds.

To tackle household food insecurity in Southwark, a co-ordinated borough wide approach is required which works at a strategic, community and individual level with key partners, including the Southwark Food Action Alliance and relevant council departments. The focus of this work needs to be a preventive one which focuses on resilience building and tackling the wider determinants which create food insecurity.

Relevant research and documents relating to food insecurity in Southwark and how the borough proposes to address it will be posted here as they become available.

Southwark Joint Strategic Needs Assessment (JSNA) reports

Other local plans and strategies

Other local data

External resources

Page last updated: 06 April 2023


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