News Older People’s Food Campaign

Older Londoners' Food Summit highlights need for coherent food services across the capital

On 1 October 2020, the International Day of Older People, Sustain co-hosted our Older Londoners’ Food Summit with the Greater London Authority (GLA). The morning event was chaired by the new Chief Executive of Age UK London, Abigail Wood, and had over 100 attendees including older people alongside professionals from local government and civil society.

Photo credit: LILS

Photo credit: LILS

A meals on wheels client and delivery driver. Photo credit: HILS. 

The event launched two pieces of research looking into older people’s experiences of food before and during the Covid-19 lockdown – Sustain’s report on meals on wheels in London and the GLA’s research looking at older Londoners’ experiences of food insecurity. The morning started with presentations and discussions from the researchers, followed by two workshop sessions where attendees reflected on how the research insights can be put into practice and the role of community groups in sustaining food provision.

At the event we heard presentations from three older Londoners about their experiences of food, alongside presentations from local government, community groups, and social enterprises working to ensure older adults get the food they need. The workshop sessions were full of energy, conversation and conviction that much needs to be done to break down the barriers that prevent older people from accessing the good food that they need and to overcome preconceptions that good food is not important as we grow older. Some key lessons learned from the presentations and views shared by attendees included that: 

  • Across London, a 'postcode lottory' exists, and this was especially true during Covid-19. Older people in different boroughs have radically different services and support available to them 
  • Many older people who struggle to access food don't know about the support that is available to them, and are rarely asked about it by family or professionals. Many also use coping mechanisms rather than asking for help
  • Funding and support with streamlined referral pathways are needed from local authorities to support existing and new meals on wheels services that sprang up in reponse to Covid-19 

We were also thrilled to hear from so many dedicated community groups working hard to make sure that older people can get the food they need in their home, but we were also sobered to hear that in some cases, cuts to services are still being made due to a lack of sustained funding.

If you’re involved in this kind of work, join Sustain’s support forum and campaign here. You can read more about the GLA’s perspective on the event here, and watch the recording of the research presentations here.

Published Thursday 8 October 2020

Older People’s Food Campaign: Meals on wheels services support thousands of older people every day to stay independent in their own homes and enrich their lives.

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