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Priority Places for Food Index

What is the Priority Places for Food Index?

The Priority Places for Food Index – developed by Dr Michelle Morris, Dr Pete Baudains and Dr Fran Pontin in collaboration with Which? – 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, from Dr Andy Newing, 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.

The index is developed at the geographic level of Lower Super Output Areas in England and Wales, Data Zones in Scotland and Super Output Areas in Northern Ireland (2011 boundaries). Data for all countries is included where possible, but some indicators are not available across all countries.

Why was the Priority Places for Food Index Developed?

Michelle Morris, Associate Professor Nutrition and Lifestyle Analytics, University of Leeds explains: “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.”

“The index is being used by Which? as part of their Affordable Food For All campaign. CDRC and Which? will be working together to engage with the food industry and policy makers to help them use the tool to help our communities, both nationally and locally.”

What does the Priority Places for Food Index show?

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 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.


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. 

northern ireland

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.

Priority Places in English Regions

Region  Total number of local areas Proportion that are priority places Why are places in this group classed as priority places? 
North East 1,657 45% Overall, local areas in the North East tend to have a higher need for family food support and relatively poor online delivery access. The priority places are particularly characterised by poorer than average proximity to supermarkets.  
Yorkshire and The Humber 3,317 37% Online delivery access is relatively poor in Yorkshire and the Humber. Local areas that are priority places tend to have higher socio-economic barriers, higher need for family food and higher fuel poverty. The priority places are particularly concentrated in the West and South of Yorkshire. 
West Midlands 3,487 36% The West Midlands has a disproportionately high number of priority places and this is driven by local areas that have relatively high fuel poverty and a high need for family food support. Many parts of Birmingham have large proportions of priority places. 
North West 4,497 32% Overall, the North West is around the national average across all 7 domains of the index, but its priority places tend to have more socio-economic barriers and higher levels of fuel poverty.  
East Midlands 2,774 19% Areas within the East Midlands tend to have around the national average across all 7 domains.Those areas identified as priority places tend to have poor online delivery access and more socio-economic barriers. 
East 3,614 13% Local areas in the East of England have higher than average measures for family food support and lower socio-economic barriers. Those local areas that are priority places tend to have poor online delivery access. The priority places in the south of the region tend to be clustered in towns such as Basildon, Harlow and Stevenage, while there is a relatively high incidence in Norfolk, both near the border with Cambridgeshire and along the coast. 
South West 3,280 10% South West areas tend to have relatively good access to supermarkets and lower socio-economic barriers. Priority places in the South West have poor online delivery access and poor non-supermarket food provision. Cornwall has a very high proportion of priority places. 
South East 5,382 7% South East areas tend to have relatively very good family food support and low fuel poverty. Overall access to supermarkets and non-supermarket food provision is middling. Priority places in the South East tend to have more socio-economic barriers and poorer online delivery access. The priority places are often located on the coast.  
London 4,835 4% London areas tend to perform higher than the national average across most domains. However, levels of fuel poverty are in line with the national average and there are more socio-economic barriers. Priority places in London have higher levels of fuel poverty and worse access to online delivery.  

Developing the Priority Places for Food Index

The Priority Places for food index uses data across a range of relevant domains to rank local areas by the likelihood of the people living there needing support to access affordable food.

Crucially, the Priority Places Index makes it possible to identify places in need and also to understand why they have been identified, whether because of a lack of retail provision, poor access to online supermarket deliveries, or high levels of deprivation and need. The index has been mapped and the technical documentation supporting the index can be found at the CDRC Data Portal.

It is a composite index that is constructed using data from seven different domains and each contains underlying metrics.  Three of these domains focus on the likely need of individuals in a local area for affordable food and their ability to access it.

The domains cover socio-economic barriers (income deprivation and car access), the likely need for family food support (for example, eligibility for free school meals) and measures of fuel poverty. These three domains are equally weighted in the composite index and together account for 50% of the total.

The final four domains relate to the level of access to food retailers in different local areas. These domains are the proximity of supermarket retail facilities, the accessibility of supermarket retail facilities, access to online deliveries and proximity to non-supermarket food provision. These four domains account for the remaining 50% of the total index, with each being equally weighted at 12.5%.

Priority Places for Food Index – Methodologies and Data

“Alongside the Priority Places for Food Index launch, we are also publishing the methodologies and data that underpin this tool. Access to these methodologies and relevant data increases the rigour and transparency behind what we do at CDRC – data science for public good – as well as increases the opportunity for our research to be reproducible.

CDRC subscribes to the FAIR data principles, which means our data are, where possible, Findable, Accessible, Interoperable, and Reusable. Releasing the methodology and the related data behind the Priority Places for Food tool allows us to demonstrate these commitments to a FAIR and more equitable data science, and likewise builds further research capacity for research organisations as well as charitable organisations, local and national government, and other key decisionmakers. This makes it much easier for our research to provide real-world impact.”

Dr Emily Ennis, Research and Impact Manager, Consumer Data Research Centre

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.