Background Food poverty is increasing in the UK, but little is known about the extent and scale of this situation at the population level. An all-party parliamentary inquiry has opened to explore food poverty and hunger, with a specific aim to identify the geographic distribution of food poverty in the UK. Presently there are no comprehensive surveys which collect data on food poverty or hunger. This paper responds to that specific aim by proposing a method for the spatial measurement of food poverty.
Methods Food poverty in the English population was estimated by combining data from the 2011 Census, the Office for National Statistics and the Department for Work and Pensions, to develop indicators of households likely to experience food poverty (household type and benefits change) for the working age (0–64 years) and pensionable age (65+ years) populations. Data were mapped at the Middle Super Output Area (MSOA) level (n = 6791) to identify local areas where food poverty may be most prevalent.
Results In MSOAs the estimated mean prevalence of food poverty is 17.3% of the total population (sd: 6.91%) with highest rates in the north of England and parts of London. Changes in the proportion of the population claiming benefits further highlight areas (n = 260, 3.8% of MOSAs) where food poverty is estimated to be greatest based on benefits claims and household type. The indicator domains may be used together or individually to estimate food poverty for populations as required, creating Indices of Food Poverty (IFP).
Conclusion The geographic distribution of food poverty can be estimated using existing data sources to address the Inquiry’s first term of reference. However, this is only the first step towards adequately measuring and monitoring UK food poverty. This paper offers a means of estimating food poverty using freely available secondary data which can be updated quarterly and adapted for specific users’ queries. These Indices of Food Poverty (IFP) offer a resource to identify populations more likely to experience food poverty, addressing the first term of reference for the inquiry into food poverty and hunger.
- food poverty
- social inequalities
- secondary data
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