Covid-19 Exposes People to Food Insecurity Part 1: Food Banks and Charities in the UK
2020-05-15

Food before coronavirus seemed more accessible than ever before. With online grocery shopping and your favourite meals being only a swipe away! It’s hard to comprehend with such advances in food accessibility that people in the UK still go hungry every day with many people skipping meals just to make it through until the end of the day. This blogpost will focus on the impact Covid-19 is having on food insecurity across the UK specifically concerning food banks.

According to last year’s UK Government audit before the coronavirus (Covid-19) outbreak, nearly 1 in 5 UK children under 15 lived in a home where parents could not afford to put food on the table. To make matters worse, under the Covid-19 lockdown, the number of people who do not have access to the right amount of food or enough healthy foods such as fresh fruits and vegetables has quadrupled. Lack of access to food is known as food insecurity, which can take many forms of access including economic or physical and look very different on an individual basis.

The UK government breaks food insecurity into three following categories:

  • Mild food insecurity is when one has to worry about the ability to obtain food for themselves or their family.
  • Moderate food security is when one has to reduce the amount of food eaten or skip meals.
  • Severe food insecurity is when one experiences hunger due to lack of access to food.

The coronavirus lockdown is further contributing to the face of food insecurity for many reasons including increases in unemployment or lack of access to children’s free school meals. Not all households are equally affected; adults with disabilities and adults with children are particularly vulnerable.

Covid-19‘s effects on Food Banks

Food banks are community organisations that distribute donated and purchased groceries directly to people challenged by food insecurity, but they have also been affected by Covid-19. Unfortunately, food banks have seen a drop in individual donations, rationed access to supermarket groceries and disrupted distribution systems. Food banks across the country have therefore started to voice concerns regarding food stock shortages. In addition to concern over stock, food banks are facing additional challenges like closures due to a decline in volunteers. This is mainly because a lot of the older volunteers are self-isolating due to their higher risk of developing complications from the coronavirus if they were to get infected. To still remain open and provide people in need of necessary food, charities have started to match volunteers with food banks in their local area to provide the necessary worker levels and are working hard to gain access to donations. Other community-led innovations have also emerged to tackle the issues of food insecurity in the community such as the food larders. Food larders are similar to foodbanks, but set up by community groups and are often backed by local councils. Many receive food donations from Fareshare, a UK based food distribution charity which gets food that would have gone to waste to those who need it most. Fareshare is hoping to use its well established networks to assist with new government funding to help distribute food across its centres in the UK to help those most in need.

Help is Available – Government and Local Authority initiatives

With rising concerns over food availability, the UK government have pledged more funding to assist with this sector, recognising the importance of keeping such dependencies running. Supermarkets are also working closely with foodbanks and charities to reduce the burdens of access which hinder food accessibility during current times. If you or anyone you know requires help, we urge that you get in contact with your local authorities who will point you to the most accessible food services in your area. There are also opportunities to help out at an individual level through shopping for your vulnerable neighbours, donating to food banks and charities or volunteering with organisations to bring food to those in need. Please visit the following links for more information about how to get involved or access help.

Scotland:

UK:

Fareshare:

Resources:

 

Published by The School of Medicine, Medical Sciences and Nutrition, University of Aberdeen

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