How the Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on the food poverty problem in South Yorkshire

The Covid-19 pandemic has shed light on inequalities across all sectors of society, but none more so than poverty – and in particularly, food poverty.

Wednesday, 23rd June 2021, 11:57 am

The Trussell Trust, a network of food banks cross the uk, gave out a record 2.5 million emergency food parcels given to people in crisis in the past year.

Here in Rotherham the issue of food poverty – defined as the inability of individuals and households to secure an adequate and nutritious diet – is “significant”, according to Ben Anderson, the director of public health in Rotherham.

Around 14 per cent of people in Yorkshire and the Humber live with food insecurity, and Mr Anderson says both access to food, and the level of nutritional quality are both factors at play.

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Ben Anderson.

Mr Anderson added that the pandemic has had a “significant impact” on the numbers of people experiencing food poverty, due to the impact on household incomes and “the impact that will have on food security”.

Lack of nutritious food can have far-reaching consequences- especially in children.

“For children we know that poor nutrition can have behavioural impacts on them, which the have academic and emotional impacts. We see increased aggression and anxiety, all the way through to suicidal ideation in children, that can be linked back to food poverty,” Mr Anderson added.

“For adults, it’s all of those issues again around how it impacts disease, diabetes, hypertension, all those things – but also the anxiety and worry of providing for the family.”

And older people are a group that may not spring to mind when talking about this problem – but as many have been shielding for the last 15 months, a lack of physical activity, coupled with inadequate nutrition, may lead to a “downward spiral.”

“Losing physical condition and also having poor nutrition, that ability to regain physical condition takes longer.

“It just becomes that downward spiral of losing your strength and losing your balance and your ability to live independently, and obviously that’s what we aim to achieve all older people.”

So what can be done about this problem?

“Locally, in the short term, supporting people with crisis food parcels, and food security re-ditribution schemes,” said Mr Anderson.

“Longer term, it’s about how we make affordable, high quality food accessible to people.

“There is a lot at local lavel that can be done around some of the areas we know that are food deserts and just don’t have access to good quality fresh fruits, vegetables, ect.

However, the issue is much more wide-reaching than at local level. It’s something that needs to be addressed at a national and global level.

“There’s the national policy around actually – how do you sort out the food infrastructure.

“A lot of our food travels from North Africa, growing in the sunnier climes – how do we support locally grown food, available for local people, into the supply chain and consistently.

“Globally, there’s still significant subsidies into the sugar industry which is probably something we don’t need.

“How do you divert those subsidies away from sugar and into fruit and veg growing and access to those.

“And then just looking at the supermarket sector – how they place items in shops how our children’s pester power dictates what goes, into the shopping basket.”

If you are in need of emergency food, please visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau here: https://www.citizensadvice.org.uk/benefits/help-if-on-a-low-income/using-a-food-bank/

If you are in a crisis and require immediate help, please telephone RMBC’s emergency hub on 01709 807319 or complete an emergency support form here: https://www.rotherham.gov.uk/emergencies-1/coronovirus/4