1.2 million living in UK food deserts, studys shows

Food desert page

1.2 million people in the UK are living in low income areas where households struggle to buy affordable fresh fruit and vegetables, according to a new study.

Everyday food insecurity is on the rise in neighbourhoods across the United Kingdom.

Dr Megan Blake

Researchers are describing these areas as ‘food deserts’ where people are likely to pay a higher cost for their weekly food shopping and have to shop in more expensive small convenience stores with a limited stock of good value fresh products.

41 per cent of these households don’t have a car, making it even harder to get to a wide range of good value food stores. One in eight people surveyed for the report say that not being near a supermarket offering healthy food at low prices stops them eating more healthily.

Nearly a third of respondents reported that lack of money was the biggest barrier to eating healthily. Ten per cent have even cut back on their own food consumption so that others in their family can eat. This increases to 14 per cent among individuals with a household income of less than £10,000.

The report highlights examples of those living in food deserts. Mum of eight, Lisa Gauchi from Salford, Greater Manchester, said she had to walk for an hour to a supermarket to have a choice of affordable fruit and vegetables.

Dr Megan Blake from the Department of Geography wrote the introduction for the study conducted by the Social Market Foundation and food company Kelloggs.

Dr Blake, an expert on food security and food justice, said: “Everyday food insecurity is on the rise in neighbourhoods across the United Kingdom.

“For those living in a food desert this can mean having to dedicate a portion of an already stretched budget toward transportation costs in order to secure food. It can mean having to carry their food shopping a long distance, a struggle that many older people living in food deserts experience.”

The research goes on to suggest that online food delivery may not be the solution for people living in food deserts. One third of people on low incomes said they would never use online shopping.

The report also highlights examples of those living in food deserts. Mum of eight, Lisa Gauchi from Salford, said she had to walk an hour to a supermarket to have a choice of affordable fruit and vegetables.

The findings of the report have been added to an online interactive map that allow people to look for food deserts in the area.

Kellogg’s has shared the map with government and has helped develop a pilot programme in Greater Manchester as part of its commitment to tackling food insecurity. Teaming up with food redistribution charity The Bread and Butter Thing it will address the issue of access to food in the deprived food deserts in Greater Manchester.