What leads to food poverty?
The Food Access Network (now superseded by the Local Action on Food network - see above) worked to ensure that everyone has access to healthy, affordable and sustainable food. We think there are four main factors that influence food access; accessibility; availability; affordability and awareness.
Accessibility – How do people reach shops, and are there any shops near to their home? Between 1986 and 1996, eight independent stores closed each day in the UK, often in communities that lack alternatives. For those who do not have access to adequate public or private transport, not being able to get to the shops is a defining factor in their ability to buy healthy affordable food.
Availability – Even if somebody can get to a shop, they may not be able to buy the healthy food that they want. Local shops may not stock healthy options, such as fruit and vegetables, due to a shorter shelf life, lower profit, a perceived lack of interest or a shortage of storage options.
Affordability – Expenditure on food is the most flexible part of household budgets as the amount spent on food is often whatever is left over when all the essential bills have been paid. When sudden or unexpected costs happen, the amount available to spend on food is reduced. Many people also perceive healthy food (especially fruit and vegetables) to be more expensive and therefore avoid them. In addition, some people are reluctant to purchase food they are unfamiliar with, due to a lack of cooking skills or worries that “unusual” food will be rejected by the family and so get wasted.
Awareness – Many individuals lack the knowledge or skills needed to buy and cook foods from scratch. There is also a lot of misinformation about nutrition and healthy foods in the media meaning many people do not know where to start.