We surveyed people who have been accessing food banks (161 people) and also those who consider themselves struggling to afford food (65 people). We also surveyed the 42 providers of emergency food (increased from 21 providers the year before).
The stark news is that Brighton & Hove residents have been going hungry – 76% of respondents stated that they (or someone in their household) had reduced the size of their meals or skipped meals because they couldn’t afford enough food, since 23rd March.
We summarise the research results below, and you can the view the key findings in the summary report on food poverty in Brighton & Hove.
Children & families
Food banks stated that the biggest increase they had seen was from families (69%) and single-parent families (62%).
Households with children responding to the survey had an average weekly food budget of £8.53 per person, but a household budget of £36 per week. With today’s prices you can see why this budget simply wouldn’t buy enough food to cover all the household’s needs.
During this pandemic, the demand from families accessing our service because they are struggling to afford to put food on the table, has increased by 100%. These families are relying on free school meals. If they don’t have that provision during school holidays this will impact their children’s physical and mental health in the long term. A healthy diet is essential if a child is going to grow, develop and learn.
Vanessa from Chomp
Disability, long-term illness and mental health
78% of respondents said that their day to day activities were limited because of a health problem or disability which has lasted or is expected to last at least 12 months (37% affected a lot, 41% affected a little). This is in comparison to 16.3% of residents in Brighton & Hove from 2011 census.
Of the people who then specified a type of impairment, over two thirds (68%) said a mental health condition, half (50%) said a long-standing illness, and two fifths (42%) said a physical impairment.
We are very concerned about support for people with mental & physical health conditions. Despite the fact that COVID-19 cases are rising, shielding has not been instigated. This means that those that choose to self-isolate because of their health condition will not receive the government funded food boxes which were distributed earlier this year. Not only that, but people with long-term health conditions often have specific dietary requirements (such as diabetes, coeliac etc) which are hard to provide for when giving out generic food parcels.
Seeing a friendly face when you are socially isolated makes the world of difference as it was the only other human I had seen all week.
It was really nice to see the lovely people who brought our food on Fridays after being indoors for over 4 months.
Increased food bank use
At the height of lock-down in Brighton & Hove, 3,001 food parcels were being given out per week and 3,966 meals. This has since reduced to 1,991 weekly parcels.
For at least the past 7 years, food parcel distribution in Brighton & Hove has been increasing, with a 374% increase between July 2019 and July 2020.
Numbers have steadied at food banks over the last few weeks, however we are all concerned about what next when furlough finishes. Winter months are always hard for those on the breadline, where choosing between heating and eating is a real concern, and more people than ever will be at home all day, needing to keep their heating on. Christmas historically is very hard on anyone’s budget.
Food banks whilst being an amazing community provision, are not the answer to ongoing and increasing levels of poverty. Mainly volunteer run and reliant on donations, they have been struggling with capacity and volunteer burn out. People need more money, not food hand-outs. With your own money you can choose what food you buy, suit your dietary preferences and have autonomy.
However, during a pandemic and after austerity measures, more money is hard to find, so food banks are here to stay to support our city’s most vulnerable people.
What can we do to help?
Support Marcus Rashford’s campaign – #endchildfoodpoverty – and sign this petition to ask government to implement three recommendations from the National Food Strategy to expand access to Free School Meals, provide meals & activities during holidays to stop holiday hunger & increase the value of and expand the Healthy Start scheme.
Donate money or food to food banks, find your local food bank here.
Do you or someone you know need help accessing food or paying for bills and other essentials? Use this form to get help or be referred to a food bank.
Having trouble affording food? Check out these places to access free or low-cost cooked meals.
Contact Helen Starr-Keddle, firstname.lastname@example.org, 07850 002596