Sustain / Food Poverty / Taking local action
Ensure everyone has physical and financial access to good food
Food poverty is the inability to afford or access good food. Be that because people on low incomes live in areas where convenience stores (with a limited range of goods) or fast-food outlets predominate. Or they simply don’t have enough money to buy food due to low wages or many other reasons.
Food banks offer emergency support for those struggling to access or afford food, but they are not a solution to food poverty. To tackle food poverty we need to boost people’s incomes so they can shop freely, choosing their own food and improve access to healthy, affordable food in every community. This could be through developing community retail outlets such a pantries or swapping food parcels for cash based approaches or shopping vouchers.
What can you do locally?
- Map your local community to assess which areas have limited access to certain types of shops; whether public transport routes link to food shops; and whether, for example, outlets selling unhealthy snacks are congregating near school gates
- Encourage and support outlets and stalls that provide the low-cost provision of fruit and vegetables and other healthy foods, helping low-income citizens have access to affordable fresh produce within easy walking distance of where they live
- Use planning powers to encourage a spread and diversity of shops and markets, ensure that new developments have enough food shops, and support good public transport links
- Encourage local businesses to provide healthier options, and to accept both Healthy Start vouchers and where available the charitably funded Alexandra Rose vouchers, redeemable for fruit and vegetables
- Whether you’re a local authority, active community member, alliance or funder, can you explore using a cash-first approach to support people on a low income? If you’re a funder, could you suggest swapping food parcels for shopping vouchers?
- Pay the Real Living Wage, or encourage your employer and local retailers to pay the Real Living Wage to ensure employees earn enough to meet everyday needs
- Community food retail and food poverty guide (Sustain, 2020)
- Good Food Retail: London boroughs taking action (Sustain, 2021)
- The cost of a healthy food basket on the island of Ireland (Safefood, 2015)
- Food Environment Assessment Tool (FEAT) provides data on cafes, convenience stores, restaurants, speciality outlets, supermarkets and takeaways in England
- Response, Resilience and Recovery report (Sustain, 2020)
- Webinar: Cash-first approaches to addressing food poverty (Sustain, 2021)
- Webinar: Making cash-first the default approach (Sustain, 2021)
- Independent Food Aid Networks Cash First project
- Moray Councils flexible food fund (2020)
- The Real Living Wage
- Citizens advice guide to benefits
Food Poverty: Over 10 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat. We’re working to change that through people-powered projects and campaigns that tackle the root causes of food poverty and ensure everyone has dignified access to healthy, affordable food.
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