UK Food Poverty: Measurement and risk mitigation

Join the Working Group on Food Poverty to connect with other organisations and stakeholders working in the area and join the debate.

Hidden hunger is a growing issue in developed economies. According to UK food policy charity Sustain, an estimated 8.4 million people in the UK struggle to get enough to eat, a situation that will likely worsen due to the effects of the current global pandemic. We are convinced that Open Data is the solution to this growing concern, and will be talking to UK-based organisations who are already using data to alleviate both the short-term (hunger, malnutrition) and long-term (socioeconomic inequality) effects of hunger, to better understand the challenges involved.

In this first Webinar in what we hope will be an informative series on UK Food Poverty and insecurity, Dianna Smith of Southampton University talks to us about the important work her and colleagues are doing at the intersection between open data, geographic information system mapping (GIS) and food poverty.

Household food insecurity, or food poverty, is an ongoing challenge in the United Kingdom. There has been no systematic measurement of this growing public health and social justice problem until recently, with much data yet to be released. When the data are shared in early 2021, it will be at coarse geographic scales that will not allow for local planning of activities to address food poverty.

To address this knowledge gap, a team of researchers and experts at the University of Southampton have been developing a series of tools and projects to facilitate mapping and sharing of spatial open data, aimed at better informing local government and third sector/civil society.

The team are responsible for initiatives such as mylocalmap, a publishing platform for food poverty risk measures, devised in collaboration with Southampton City Council and agricultural policy advocates Sustain; and CITISCAPE, a citizen science-based project enabling direct feedback between young adults and the City Council regarding their local built environment.

The mylocalmap tool, in particular, was designed to reduce risk of food poverty in localised areas across England; it uses regularly updated open data on benefits claimants, as well as demographic risk factors, identified through qualitative research. The team is in the process of updating the risk measure for area classifications, to account for specific local challenges and influences, and smaller units (LSOAs). The measure is already used in local resource allocation, Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) and food poverty action plans.


About the Presenters

Dianna Smith is a lecturer in GIS and health geography, with over 15 years of experience in health inequalities and food insecurity research. She developed a model of food poverty risk used nationally in local government and contributes to Joint Strategic Needs Assessments (JSNAs) on food insecurity across many UK local authorities, guiding data collection and analysis. 


Kathryn Bailey, Head of Communications, GODAN