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Areas most at risk of food insecurity in the cost of living crisis identified by CDRC and Which?

In a groundbreaking new study researchers from the Consumer Research Data Centre at the University of Leeds and Which? have identified the places around the UK where households are most at risk in the cost of living crisis and likely to be in need of extra support to access affordable, healthy and sustainable food.

The CDRC team, led by Dr Michelle Morris, and the consumer champion developed the Priority Places for Food Index as part of Which?’s national campaign to urge supermarkets to support consumers through the cost-of-living crisis. 

The index uses data across a range of relevant dimensions to rank local areas by the likelihood of the people living there needing support.

The researchers considered factors such as deprivation, poor access to affordable food, having no large supermarkets nearby, a lack of online shopping deliveries or circumstances such as no car access making it difficult to shop around.  All of these factors can make it difficult for people to find healthy and affordable food. 

Michelle Morris, Associate Professor Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics, University of Leeds said: “With so many people in the UK already suffering from food insecurity and the cost of living crisis making that much worse, we need to do all that we can to support those most in need to access affordable, healthy and sustainable foods.

That is why we have developed the Priority Places for Food Index in collaboration with Which?

Our interactive map makes it easy to identify neighbourhoods most in need of support and highlights the main reasons that they need this support, recognising that one size does not fit all and that tailored help is required.”

“We will be engaging widely with the food industry and policy makers to help them use the tool to help our communities, both nationally and locally.  Some of our local communities in Bradford have been identified within the top 20 Priority Places across the UK, which is very worrying.”

Which? – Affordable Food For All

Which? are using the index as part of its newly launched Affordable Food For All campaign, and have created a 10-point plan to help supermarkets provide the support people around the country desperately need in order to feed themselves through the ongoing crisis.

Sue Davies, Which? Head of Food Policy explained: “We know that millions of people are skipping meals through the worst cost of living crisis in decades but our new research tells us where around the UK support is most urgently needed.

The big supermarkets have the ability to take action and make a real difference to communities all around the UK. That’s why we’re calling on them to ensure everyone has easy access to budget food ranges that enable healthy choices, can easily compare the price of products to get the best value and that promotions are targeted at supporting people most in need.”

Priority places across the UK

Analysis of the Index shows that overall, seven in 10 UK Parliamentary constituencies have at least one area in need of urgent help accessing affordable food – but there are 16 constituencies across England and Wales for which at least three-quarters of the constituency are at risk.

Within England there is a large variation in where priority places are located across regions. The region with the greatest frequency of priority places is the North East, although because this is a small region then there are more priority places in Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands and the North West in absolute terms. There are relatively few priority places in London, the South East and the South West, although in the latter there is a concentration in Cornwall.

In Wales, the highest concentration of areas at high risk during the food crisis is in the Valleys where proximity to a large supermarket or access to online deliveries may be very poor. Wales has a higher proportion of rural places where accessing affordable food is an issue than England and Scotland. 

In Scotland, the places in highest need of support are in the Central Belt, according to the Which? and CDRC index, but there is also a notable concentration in and around Dundee where there is relatively poor access to online food deliveries and people are more likely to be suffering from fuel poverty and on a low income.

Northern Ireland has the most even geographical spread of areas in need of support accessing affordable food. However, there is a noticeably greater concentration in parts of south-west Belfast and in and around Derry/Londonderry.

Explore the Priority Places.

Developing the Priority Places for Food Index

The Priority Places for Food Index is a composite index formed of data compiled across seven different dimensions relating to food insecurity for the four nations in the UK. It is constructed using open data to capture complex and multidimensional aspects of food insecurity.

Building on the CDRC e-Food Desert Index (EFDI), but with additional domains relating to fuel poverty and family food support, the goal of the Priority Places for Food Index is to identify neighbourhoods that are most vulnerable to increases in the cost of living and which have a lack of accessibility to affordable, healthy, and sustainable sources of food.

Read more about the development of the Priority Places for Food Index.

Further Information

For further information or to discuss how your organisation can use the Priority Places for Food Index please contact info@cdrc.ac.uk.