Tackling food poverty, diet-related ill health and access to affordable healthy food


Use the links below for useful information, toolkits and guides to help you take action.

1. Establish a multi-agency partnership

Birmingham Food Council looks at what a city-level response to food insecurity would look like in its report "Food insecurity in Birmingham — a city-level response?"

Bristol City Council’s Food Poverty report ‘What does the evidence tell us?’ provides a concise overview of food poverty and nutrition issues in the city.

Feeding the Gaps is a community-led analysis of Food poverty and food surplus redistribution in Oxford.

Haringey’s Joint Strategic Needs Assessment on health improvement relating to diet and nutrition provides an overview of issues and action taken in the borough.

Healthy Cities Network, provides research, advice and support to help local authorities and health agencies improve health, including diet.

London’s Zero Hunger City report investigates the scale and causes of food poverty and presents a range of suggestions for its alleviation.

Sustain's guide on Developing Food Poverty Action Plans is based on good practice from across the SFC Network and looks at a range of issues from why set up an action plan to the sort of actions to include. 

Walking the breadline: the scandal of food poverty in 21st century Britain (Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam) provides a detailed analysis of food poverty issues.

London Food Link’s annual Beyond the Food Bank report assesses London boroughs’ responses to food poverty. 

Michigan State University has developed an 86 metrics tool to evaluate racial equity in the food system. The metrics are either currently in use or are recommended by food system practitioners and food movement organizations in the United States.

2. Promote the living wage

Child Poverty Action Group and the Living Wage Foundation's practical guide aims to help local authorities in London become accredited Living Wage employers.  

Joseph Rowntree Foundation is developing a Minimum Income Standard which aims to set a benchmark for what is an acceptable income for different groups in the UK.

Living Wage Foundation provides advice and support to employers and service providers implementing the Living Wage.

The Living Wage: Questions and Answers report (National Assembly for Wales) presents the costs and benefits of adopting the Living Wage.

3. Provide advice, referral and support on food access

The Trussell Trust’s report on Universal Credit and foodbanks.

Universal Credit is a report by the TUC that outlines the problem of delay in the payment of benefits and makes recommendations for addressing the issue.

4. Increase understanding of food poverty issues

Coventry University published a study on The Emergence of Social Supermarkets in Britain.

Chartered Institute of Environmental Health provides information and advice to policy makers and public health practitioners on food safety and nutrition.

Fabian Commission on Food and Poverty's report Hungry for Change asks how a fairer food system can be built that works better for people on low incomes.

Food Matters’ Budget Bites helps people understand the links between good food budgeting, managing debt and building cooking skills using low cost ingredients.  

Food Up Front published a report drawing lessons from Canada where charitable food providers have gone beyond the provision of food aid to engaging people in food poverty in advocacy.

Fruit and Vegetable Prescription Program (US) involves doctors issuing prescriptions for fruit and vegetables to families with overweight children.

Household Food Security in the UK: A Review of Food Aid is a report published by the University of Warwick and the Food Ethics Council which looks at the ‘food aid’ landscape in the UK. 

NHS Choices suggests 20 tips to eat well for less

Royal Society for Public Health provides training for practitioners on a range of health issues including food safety and nutrition.

Time to Count the Hungry, a report from the UK Food Poverty Alliance argues that this measure could be used to monitor the problem as part of existing social and health surveys. 

5. Provide healthy weight services and initiatives

The Eatwell Plate website shows what types and proportions of food are needed for a healthy diet with tools for assessing diets and planning healthier menus.

Growing Health have produced a guide for evaluating health and wellbeing outcomes for community growing programmes.

Health Education Trust promotes the development of healthy lifestyles and health education among children and young adults, with a big focus on food.

The King's Fund makes the case for the further integration of gardens and health into mainstream health policy and practice.

Local Government Association has published a series of case studies on Healthy Weight, Healthy Futures: Local government action to tackle childhood obesity.

Natural England calls for greater use of green care such as therapeutic horticulture, as a cost-effective solution for mental health and social service commissioners.

NHS Choices provides information, resources, practical tips and tools to help people adopt healthy eating and lose weight.

Nutritionist Resource provides information on a range of nutrition-related topics as well as access to a network of professional nutritionists.

Public Health Responsibility Deal asks businesses and other organisations to improve public health by committing to action on food and other health issues.

6. Promote Healthy Start, free school meals and social food provision

The APPG on School Food’s Holiday Hunger Task Group published the Filling The Holiday Gap Update Report 2015 outlining holiday provision activity in the UK and making further recommendations as to how central and devolved government could support future activities.

The Association of Convenience Stores has launched an animation to help get more shops registered to accept Healthy Start vouchers. 

Brighton and Hove have produced a handy 'how to’ booklet on breakfast clubs, listing practical ideas based on findings from local research. They have also produced 'Eating Together' a study to understand the role of shared meals in reducing longer-term or 'chronic' food poverty.

Casserole Club helps people share extra portions of home-cooked food with others in their area who are not always able to cook for themselves.

Food Power have published a toolkit which focuses on ensuring children's access to food throughout the year, with a menu of actions on Healthy Start vouchers, breastfeeding, children's centres, free schools meals, breakfast clubs, and holiday food provision.

Frontiers in Public Health has published an evaluation of school holiday food provision programmes in the UK including the benefits, needs and areas for improvement. A second paper published in 2017 provides preliminary evidence about the impact of holiday clubs on household food insecurity. When secure and insecure households are compared, they discover that food insecure households benefit the most from holiday clubs, which suggests that they may play an important role in mitigating household food insecurity.

Good Food in Greenwich's Holiday Hunger report looks at meal provision for families during the school holidays and makes recommendations for further action. 

The Government’s Free School Meals plan makes it compulsory for schools to provide free school meals to eligible infants.

The Government’s School Food Plan aims to help head teachers improve food in their schools. Listen to a Sustainable Food City webinar on the School Food Plan.

Magic Breakfast provides a free, nutritious breakfast in more than 240 schools and helps new schools establish their own breakfast clubs.

'Meals on wheels: Good practice case studies' is a new report which presents six examples of meals on wheels services from around the UK. The case studies include information on services’ reach, how they provide meals, the range of support offered beyond the meals themselves and their hopes for the future. 

NHS Healthy Start gives out free vouchers every week to spend on milk, plain fresh and frozen fruit and vegetables and infant formula milk.

Sustain’s report Providing Good Food in Schools offers information for schools and local authorities seeking economically viable ways of providing good food.

Sustain has produced and collated a range of resources on supporting and enhancing meals on wheels provision.

What Works Well is dedicated to sharing good practice among schools in implementing the school food plan. 

7. Increase the availability of healthy options

Association of Convenience Stores is working with members to roll out Change4Life branding into 1000 stores to improve fruit and veg availability in deprived areas.

Children's Food Trust published a comprehensive Voluntary Food and Drink Guidelines for Early Years Settings in England.

FoodCycle works to reduce food poverty and social isolation by serving tasty, nutritious meals to vulnerable groups using reclaimed surplus food.

Food Foundation's report Force-Fed shows how difficult it is for typical British families to eat a healthy diet and suggests government action.

Food Foundation's evidence based toolkit for retailers demonstrates how veg can help increase sales and improve the health of their customers.

Food Policy Networks recorded a webinar on in-store interventions to encourage healthier purchasing.

Food Power have published a briefing on community food retail projects in the UK, including social supermarkets, community pantries, fruit and vegetable schemes, food co-operatives, covering retail models, funding and impact. 

The Healthy London Partnership tested different approaches to improve the food retail environment on three high streets in London looking at people's food choices and working with businesses.

Public Health England have published a suite of guidance on healthier and more sustainable catering.

Public Health England have published Encouraging healthier ‘out of home’ food provision toolkit to support local councils and independent food businesses to provide and promote healthier options. 

Public Health England have published a study evidencing the impact of improving the general population's access to healthy food and food growing spaces on a range of health outcomes.

Public Health England's 'Healthier Catering Guidance for Different Types of Businesses: Tips on providing and promoting healthier food and drink for children and families' offers simple practical changes when procuring, preparing, cooking, serving and promoting food.

Public Health England's 'Promoting healthy weight in children, young people and families: A resource to support local authorities' has been produced to support public health teams to engage partners in delivering a whole systems obesity approach.  

The Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST) reviews current diets and barriers to healthy food including price, marketing, skills and location.

Sustain's 'Taking down junk food ads' report highlights what local areas are doing to tackle outdoor advertising.

The Town and Country Planning Association's new development guidelines for Local Authorities take on an explicit public health perspective and recommend improving the food environment through: supporting the development of and facilitating access to a diversity of food outlets selling healthy food options. 

8. Curb the development of food deserts and food swamps

The Customer Data Research Centre (CDRC) online mapping tool allows you to view Access to Health Assets & Hazards, mapping of the Retail Environment, of Fast Foods, of Green Spaces for 13 large UK cities. 

Food Research Collaboration's briefing Within Arms Reach, focuses on the factors that inform food and drink purchasing by young people in the vicinity of school.

The Geographic Data Science Lab produced a tool and data resource for the UK measuring in a multi-dimensional way how ‘healthy’ neighbourhoods are (including access to retail outlets, access to health services and quality of the physical environment.)

Local Government Association has produced a report Tipping the scales: case studies on the use of planning powers to limit hot food takeaway

Local Works are campaigning to allow local authorities to introduce a supermarket levy to be spent on boosting local jobs, local trade and local communities.

Public Health England has published a briefing on ‘Obesity and the environment: regulating the growth of fast food outlets’.

Public Health England published a briefing on the use of the Food Access Radar in identifying areas with a likelihood of food poverty.

Shift led a pilot project looking at the variables that play a role in the success and potential sustainability of healthy fast food businesses in low income areas. 

The Food Environment Assessment Tool allows councils and campaigners to find out the concentration of outlets by area. It was developed by CEDAR and the MRC Epidemiology Unit at the University of Cambridge. 

Shaw Food Solutions is currently undertaking a mapping of food deserts in the UK as well as bakers, butchers, convenience stores (differentiated between those with 10 or more kinds of fresh fruit and vegetables and those with under 10) and fishmongers. 

The Town and Country Planning Association's new development guidelines for Local Authorities take on an explicit public health perspective and recommend improving the food environment through: avoiding over-concentration of hot-food takeaways and restricting their proximity to schools, town centres or other facilities aimed at children, young people, and families. 


Leon Ballin
Sustainable Food Cities

Sustainable Food Cities is a partnership programme run by

Soil Association

Food Matters

Esmée Fairbairn Foundation
Sustainable Food Cities is funded by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation www.esmeefairbairn.org.uk 

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