Tackling the Causes of Food Insecurity in Developed Economies: The Food Ladder Concept

While food insecurity is recognised as an issue in developing economies, it undeniably also exists in wealthy countries.  In the UK, one in four adults experience some level of food insecurity at some point in their lives. According to Sheffield University research data, around 25% of UK adults have struggled during the pandemic to access food they can afford, leaving them susceptible to hunger and potential malnutrition.

The four dimensions of food security as defined by the UN FAO include affordability, access, utilisation and consistency over time. They argue that all four pillars must be in place for a household to be food secure.  While the lack of affordability is well recognised as a cause of food insecurity in wealthy countries, other dimensions are often overlooked.  Furthermore, some groups are more likely to experience greater vulnerability across these four pillars compared to others. 

In addition to the causes, food insecurity also has effects on individuals and households and which sediment into landscapes.  These effects reinforce and amply the problems. Food Ladders is an evidence-based framework that helps to structure local responses to food insecurity and repair its effects through targeted interventions that catch those who need it most, build the capacity of those who are able, and facilitate transformation in ways that support all of four food security pillars.

In this Webinar, Megan Blake (Sheffield University) outlines the causes of food insecurity as they manifest in wealthy nations.  She goes on to introduce and consider the effects of food insecurity and how these effects inform feedback loops that create a system of insecurity.  Megan also discusses the Food Ladders framework, a concept that she created and upon which she has based considerable research on food security. 


About the Speaker

Dr. Megan Blake is Senior Lecturer in Human Geography at the University of Sheffield, and an expert in food security and food justice.

Her research considers the dimensions of food insecurity with a focus on economically wealthy nations.  This work considers both the causes of insecurity as they play out across the four pillars identified by the United Nations (access, affordability, utilisation, and consistency) as well as the effects (health, wellbeing, isolation, and capacity).  To respond to this need she has developed the Food Ladders framework as a way to structure food-based interventions that aim to repair this damage and build community resilience that leads to transformation.

Megan’s work has been utilised by a wide number of local authorities in the UK, national and international charitable organisations, local community groups, and food industry actors.  Her work on Food Ladders was submitted as an impact case study for the 2021 Research Excellence Framework.  She is the author of more than 40 journal publications, reports, and news media articles and has a successful record of grant capture.  She was the first Academic in Residence with FareShare UK and is a founder member and academic advisor to the independent surplus food redistribution network, XCess.  In response to COVID-19, she has worked closely with the Food Foundation, and the Voluntary and Community Services Emergency Response Food task and finish group.  She is also a trustee of Rhubarb Farm in Derbyshire and a member of the editorial board for The Mint Magazine. 

Moderator - Kathryn Bailey, Head of Communcations, GODAN.