Food insecurity and COVID-19

July 8, 2020
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The ability to access food is essential to physical and mental health. However, the coronavirus outbreak has made it very difficult for many people to financially or physically access food and, with food banks reporting record demand, food insecurity is on the rise across the UK and locally. 

What is food insecurity? 

Food insecurity can be defined as a lack of access to enough good, healthy, and culturally appropriate food. In practice, this may mean experiencing hunger, running out of money to buy food, skipping meals or cutting down on quantities eaten due to lack of money, and not being able to afford balanced meals.

Food insecurity often has a hugely detrimental impact on families and individuals, affecting development, well-being and life chances. For example, poor diet is related to 30% of years lost to early death and disability, causing one in three deaths from cancer and one in two from heart disease. Children growing up in food insecure households are more likely to develop asthma, depression and other chronic conditions. As a result, this can mean that their growth and development is impaired and ability to learn is poorer, significantly impacting access to life opportunities. Food insecurity can also damage mental health, with a severely food insecure person five times more likely to experience anxiety disorders and major depressive episodes than someone who has access to adequate food.

Food insecurity in Southwark

Prior to the pandemic, food insecurity was a serious local issue. A June 2019 Greater London Authority (GLA) survey of 6,601 Londoners aged over 16 showed that 75,000 Southwark residents - or roughly one in four - were food insecure. The survey also found that 25.8% of 0-16 year olds in the borough were food insecure, equating to over 15,000 children in Southwark. These figures are higher than the London average of 21% for adults and 17.5% for children. 

The impact of COVID-19 and where to find support

The COVID-19 crisis has heightened these existing inequalities and, with what could be the UK’s sharpest ever recession looming, action is urgently needed to protect people from falling further into poverty and, as a result, food insecurity. The issue will not end when lockdown is lifted. 

If you are experiencing food insecurity or would like to offer support, we've collated some local organisations working to tackle hunger and provide help.

  • Age UK delivers Food2You, a shopping delivery service aimed at older people in Southwark, Lewisham and Lambeth who are experiencing or at risk of malnutrition.
  • Central Southwark Community Hub runs a food bank along with other services that help vulnerable people experiencing food poverty address the underlying causes of their situations.
  • FoodCycle is guided by the belief that food waste and food poverty should not co-exist. The charity’s Peckham hub is located in All Saints Church Hall and where it serves free three course meals every Wednesday from 4.30 pm to 6pm and Saturday 5.30 to 7pm (please note that the service has been temporarily paused during lockdown).
  • Feed the Hill aims to ensure that every household in Telegraph Hill has access to the food they need during the COVID-19 outbreak, providing boxes of nourishing food to those hit hardest by the crisis.
  • Here at Nunhead Knocks, we provide free food parcels. You can request support here and find your local donation station here. You can also donate to help us provide food for families supported by Westminster House Youth Club, Refugee Solidarity and other local groups.
  • Rye Hill TRA is a constituted tenants and residents association based in Peckham providing food aid support to those adversely affected by COVID-19. They are open every weekday 9-10 am for donations (241 Peckham Rye SE15 3AA) and by invite at a mutually agreed time for those seeking help to maintain social distancing. 
  • Southwark Foodbank is part of a nationwide network of foodbanks, supported by The Trussell Trust, working to combat poverty and hunger across the UK. 

Please email if you are aware of other initiatives or organisations we can add to this list.

Data obtained from Southwark Council's July 2019 report Household Food Insecurity.

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