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Priority Places for Food Index launched to identify unaffordable food hotspots

The Consumer Data Research Centre at the University of Leeds have partnered with the consumer rights group Which? to identify places in the UK where people are most likely to need support in accessing affordable food. The online tool is free to use.

Products in the aisles of a supermarket.. Copyright: photocritical | shutterstock

Products in the aisles of a supermarket.. Copyright: photocritical | shutterstock

As part of their research, the two teams developed the Priority Places for Food Index, a project led by Dr Michelle Morris. The index uses data across a range of relevant dimensions to rank local areas by the likelihood of the people living there needing support. 

The 'Priority Places for Food Index' makes it possible to identify places in need and also to understand why they have been so identified, whether because of a lack of retail provision, poor access to online supermarket deliveries, or high levels of deprivation and need.

Which? is using the index as part of its new Affordable Food For All campaign, highlighting how supermarkets can support those most in need.

The most at-risk areas in the UK

In England, the index shows the North East is the worst impacted region in England with almost half (45%) of the local areas are in dire need of extra support. 

This is due to relatively poor access to online shopping deliveries, a worse than average proximity to supermarkets and higher need for family food support, such as free school meals and take up of healthy start vouchers.

Across the other regions, Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the North West all have at least a third of the local areas in need of extra help. Constituencies in Birmingham and Liverpool feature heavily at the top of the index.

Birmingham Hodge Hill is the highest-ranking constituency in the index with 100% of its local areas considered as needing extra support to put food on the table. Which? found the area – served by the Aston and Nechells Food Bank – is categorised by poor online delivery access, high levels of fuel poverty and people in the area having a low income or no car access.

Knowsley in Merseyside is the second highest ranking constituency for needing support, with low income, fuel poverty and an exceptionally high need for family food support in 96% of its local areas. It also has relatively low levels of nearby supermarkets – half the number of large or very large supermarkets compared to the national average – indicating affordable food may be harder to find locally. Access to online shopping deliveries is also low. 

In comparison to England and Scotland, Wales has a higher proportion of rural places where accessing affordable food is an issue. The highest concentration of areas affected by the food crisis is in the Valleys where proximity to a large supermarket or access to online deliveries may be very poor.

In Scotland, the places in highest need of support are most commonly found in the Central Belt according to the Which? index. But there is also a notable concentration in and around Dundee where there's relatively poor access to online food deliveries and people are more likely to be suffering from fuel poverty and on a low income.

Northern Ireland has a more even geographical spread of areas (classed as 'Super Output Areas' with an average of around 2,000 people) in need of support to access affordable food. However, there is a noticeably greater concentration in the south-west suburbs of Belfast and in and around Derry/Londonderry owing mainly to a lack of supermarkets.

Published Tuesday 15 November 2022

Food Poverty: Millions of 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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