A new report by the FILL (Food Insecurity Monitoring at the Local Level) Consortium has been released on local food insecurity measurement and monitoring. This briefing reports on findings from a workshop held in June 2022 that brought together over 70 stakeholders across the four nations from both governmental and non-governmental organisations. The aim of the workshop was to understand the both the level of methods currently being used and the barriers in place to measuring food insecurity on a local level.
There is a large variation in food insecurity rates at a local level, despite having estimates for each of the UK nations and for 9 regions in England.
Why should local level food insecurity be tracked?
In the UK, food insecurity is a key concern for all levels of government, especially in the current climate of COVID-19, the Ukraine war and the mounting cost of living crisis. Recent Department for Work and Pensions statistics found that in 2020-2021, across the UK each month, 7% of households experienced insure and insufficient access to food because of a lack of finances. As energy prices and inflation continue to rise, the number of households suffering from food insecurity will rise.
The report highlights how direct measurement and monitoring of local level food insecurity using the USDA Survey Model would offer comparable, reliable, and robust data. This data could be used to inform and evaluate local strategy and responses to address food insecurity and its root causes.
This more comprehensive and repeatable data could allow for more effective targeting and evaluation of the impact of interventions and allow local authorities to forecast future levels of need.
What is stopping local authorities tracking and reporting food insecurity?
The workshop and subsequent briefing report highlighted that limited resources were a major challenge to measurement and monitoring of food insecurity in local authorities. This has led to an over-reliance on existing proxy data to estimate food insecurity levels. Measuring food insecurity levels using proxy data such as food parcel distribution rates often underestimates the number of people and/or households who are food insecure. Plus, estimating based on national measurement figures also does not account for local factors that may be at play.
The briefing also reported that workshop participants found it challenging to maintain access to specialist knowledge in gathering, analysing and presenting local level food insecurity data. It was noted that one-off surveys were often used in local authorities but securing resources for analysis and regular monitoring were uncommon.
How can local authorities effectively track and report on food insecurity?
Following the workshop and analysis of findings, FILL outlined a recommended approach for effective local level measurements of food insecurity whilst recognising and overcoming challenges that may present.
A local approach should be established utilising a questionnaire that includes a validated tool for measuring food insecurity. The questionnaire should be local-specific and may include questions that reflect the local area. Local investments from councils should cover all staff time, including a research lead, data analysis team and third sector partners.
Ahead of time, there should be a strategy in place to share the data to local decision-makers, organisations and communities. The way in which different groups consume these findings should be considered, presenting data in a suitable way must be planned for.
Finally, the survey findings should be implemented into local food and poverty action plans and ongoing monitoring should be carried out.
Read the full briefing report here.