Ask anyone to describe London and it probably won’t be long before they mention the huge variety of restaurants, street food markets and cafes on the streets that reflect the capital’s rich diversity.
There may be a vast array of food on offer in the city but the reality is it is not accessible to everyone. For many who live here with this on their doorstep, the hard truth is that they do not have enough money to meet their basic needs, including feeding themselves and their families.
With poverty higher in London than other parts of the country at 27% (after housing costs), the pressure of housing, childcare and public transport expenses contribute to many people struggling to make ends meet, with their income falling well short of what they need to have an acceptable standard of living which impacts upon food and nutrition.
The large number of people having to rely on foodbanks should shock everyone, with the Trussell Trust reporting that over 166,000 parcels were given out at their foodbanks in London last year.
As well as this measure, another aspect of food poverty is ‘food insecurity’. This is generally defined as experiencing hunger, the inability to secure food of sufficient quality and quantity to enable good health and participation in society, and cutting down on food because of a lack of money.
A survey to capture levels of food insecurity in the capital was conducted by the Mayor of London in 2019 for the first time.
It showed that almost two million Londoners, of whom an estimated 400,000 were children under the age of 16, struggle to afford or access a sufficient diet.
What can be done
There are solutions to this unacceptable situation, not least ensuring people earn enough money to live on - at a minimum the London Living Wage - and securing a safety net which provides enough resources for people’s basic needs. Other practical ways to support people include: expanding the offer of free school meals including during the school holidays, promoting health start vouchers, and enhancing meals on wheels provision, to name a few.
We have been funding Sustain to produce the Beyond the Food Bank: London Food Poverty Profile since 2015. This takes stock of what each local authority is doing to tackle food poverty in their borough. In funding the research each year, we are able to monitor the progress local authorities are making whilst recognising and encouraging examples of good practice which others can take up. Read the latest report from 2019.
We have also contributed towards the Food Foundation’s work in working with young people to put together the #Right2Food Charter, making recommendations to government, the Mayor of London and local authorities on how to deal with food insecurity. Our funding allowed young people to be directly involved in the inquiry and in January 2020, they presented the charter at the first ever London Children’s Food Insecurity Summit held at City Hall, calling for city-wide systemic change to end food insecurity once and for all.
Food poverty: Publications
Meals on Wheels for the 21st Century: A report exploring meals on wheels services in London before, during and after COVID-19
London Children’s Food Insecurity Briefing & #Right2Food Charter
Beyond the Food Bank: London Food Poverty Profile 2019