A report on food poverty data from the Open Data Institute (ODI) has revealed that the North East of England and black families across the country suffer the most from food poverty.

ODI provides available data visualization toolbuilt using Tablebehind the findings available for research.

Louise Burke, managing director of the Open Data Institute, said: “This report shows that important work needs to be done on how food insecurity is measured so that responses to the problem are timely, targeted and effective. Its data also show that targeted help may be needed in communities across the country, whether defined by geography, ethnicity or background.

Research for the project was carried out by ODI together with Allegory, a strategic communications agency; Frontier Economics, an economic consulting firm; and Mime Consulting, a data consultancy that says it focuses on social issues.

The ODI is calling for a single indicator of food poverty that the Office for National Statistics (ONS) can use to highlight the problem of food poverty and target aid better than now.

The report’s analysis reveals differences in food poverty between ethnic, social and geographic groups – 21% of black-headed households and 12% of Bangladeshi households are “food insecure”. It showed that 11% of homes in the North East of England and 9% in Inner London were in food poverty. Overall, 9% of households with children are in food poverty.

the report, Food insecurity and data infrastructurebrings together sources such as Family Resources SurveyThe Food Standards Agency Household food insecurity report, data from food poverty charity FareShare and Trussell Trust emergency food parcel distribution data.

But its authors said a more accurate picture of food poverty could be obtained by using other data sets on household income, food bank use, benefit data and child poverty data. They suggested that the government should also call on the private sector to release timely data on prices and consumption patterns to get a more detailed, real-time picture of food insecurity.

Amanda Naylor, chief executive of the charity Manchester Youth Zone, chimed in with that theme in a statement released with the report: “Intelligence about the issues facing our communities is a real issue,” she said. “Currently, data is not being collected and used effectively to enable organizations like ours to look at issues holistically. For example, many of our children are not registered with doctors or dentists and may not have legal access to services.

“So who is capturing this data? Community centres, run by black organisations, organizations like us at Manchester Youth Zone, the people working locally who know the communities – we hold huge amounts of data that have never been asked for and we currently have no way of feeding that information into the system.”

Naylor added: “Manchester Youth Zone works with over 1,000 children and their families every week. In the last 12 months, the food shortage crisis in north Manchester has seen demand on our food pantry increase eightfold, with over 40% of our members now needing support with food parcels.”

The report’s authors say there is no universally accepted definition of food insecurity. They defined it as people’s inability to access a nutritious diet. A household is therefore food insecure if it “cannot – or is uncertain whether it can – obtain adequate quality or sufficient quantity of food in socially acceptable ways”.

The report also pointed out plenty of lag in the information currently available. It relies, they said, on surveys and other research methods that are conducted regularly, but which are often analyzed and published months later.

The authors also pointed out inconsistencies in the current data. For example, on Family Resources Survey shows a level of ‘food insecurity’ of 7% (1.95 million UK households), while Food Standards Agency figures Household food insecurity the report showed that 15% (4.1 million households if extrapolated to the UK) of those surveyed used a food bank or food charity in March 2022, while 22% (6.1 million) skipped meals or cut back the amount they eat.

The Family Resources Survey also revealed that households headed by black (40%), Bangladeshi (55%) or mixed ethnicity (32%) were significantly more likely to be in relative poverty compared to the overall national figure of 15.8% .

Halima Begum, CEO of the Race Equality Think Tank Runnymede Trust, said: “To eat or to warm becomes more of a choice depending on your situation, and for families with children, food is probably the more important of the two. This research from the Open Data Institute fills an important gap in demonstrating exactly how black and minority ethnic groups suffer from food insecurity at alarmingly disproportionate levels.

Lisa Allen, director of data and services at ODI, concluded: “The report’s findings highlight gaps in the way data is collected and used and show a clear need for better data collection and management. This would allow for an up-to-date and accurate single measure of food poverty.

“This combination of government, private and third sector data can provide a national and local picture, including the most up-to-date information. Integrating such a single measure with health surveys would allow researchers to track the actual impacts of food poverty in a much more direct way than is currently the case.”


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