Food insecurity

Rising rates of food insecurity put the most vulnerable at risk.
A filled food bank donation box.

Greater food insecurity could affect people's physical health and mental wellbeing, and create unmanageable pressure on already stretched NHS services.

The impact of food insecurity: in numbers

How health and care organisations are supporting local communities

  • One Slough, a partnership comprising stakeholders and partners including Frimley ICS, Slough Borough Council and the voluntary, community and social enterprise (VCSE) sector, is developing programmes to alleviate food insecurity in the borough. A number of community pantries are opening across the area in the coming months.

    The same team is also partnering with the Meals from Marlow scheme that, during COVID-19 lockdowns, provided free hot meals to community groups who then distributed them through their own networks. This meal delivery service is being revitalised in Slough, and the team is working with community groups and their primary care networks to investigate if GPs can refer patients who need emergency help with meals.

  • Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust provides care packages on discharge to patients who require an extra level of support. Ward staff assess whether the patient might not have food in at home due to food insecurity, a lack of nearby relatives, or because of a long stay on the ward. The patient is sent home with a care package so that they are not discharged to empty food cupboards. The package includes tea or coffee, milk, bread, butter, jam, a tin of soup or beans, and cereal.

    This care package is charged to the ward’s budget and costs are kept low thanks to partnerships with the food suppliers. The trust’s catering team is also in the process of developing a set of low-cost, nutritious, simple recipes to give to patients on discharge, because of the mental and physical health benefits of home cooking.

  • The ICS’s approach is to ensure that NHS providers and local authority teams in the system makes every contact count by enquiring about access to food and heating, and their place-based partnerships are supporting access to food banks and other support offers through partnerships with the VCSE sector.

    Primary care networks in the area identify and support vulnerable households through proactive signposting, and work with the VCSE and local authority public health teams to provide support mechanisms where available, supported by the integrated care board (ICB) and place-based partnerships.

  • Southwark Council is tackling food insecurity through a coordinated borough-wide approach with key partners. The focus is on prevention, resilience and tackling wider determinants of food insecurity, assessing need and service provision through its three-tier response: solving structural and policy issues that cause food insecurity (access to affordable, healthy food); building resilience (empowering and upskilling people); and crisis provision (emergency food aid).

    More examples of local government programmes tackling food insecurity can be found on the Local Government Association’s website.

  • The Royal Orthopaedic Hospital NHS Foundation Trust has an on-site food bank where colleagues can access food in a discreet area of the hospital. The trust provides carrier bags so that staff can fill up a bag and no one needs to be aware. There is also signposting to the local food bank and services for individuals and families, which are near the hospital. Staff are encouraged to contact them, as further ongoing support can be offered.

    More examples of support for health and care staff from member organisations are available on the NHS Employers website.

  • Newcastle Upon Tyne NHS Foundation Trust offers discreet meal cards for staff who may be unable to prioritise funds, to enable them to eat and drink while at work. Chaplains and the catering team can issue the credit-card-sized card, which is titled ‘staff loyalty card.’ Cards are returned at the end of use and can be exchanged, and further support sought. This is funded by the Newcastle Hospitals Charity.

    More examples of support for health and care staff from member organisations are available on the NHS Employers website.

What the government can do to help