Hundreds of areas suffering from poor food affordability across the UK – although study finds none in Rugby

A new study suggests thousands of areas are suffering from poor access to affordable food across the UK – although there are none in the Rugby constituency.

Shoppers in the fruit and vegetables section of a branch of Sainsbury's in south London. Shoppers are said to be buying a raft of Christmas items, such as presents and frozen turkeys, early in a bid to make sure their festive celebrations are not heavily disrupted for a second year. Picture date: Friday October 15, 2021.
Shoppers in the fruit and vegetables section of a branch of Sainsbury's in south London. Shoppers are said to be buying a raft of Christmas items, such as presents and frozen turkeys, early in a bid to make sure their festive celebrations are not heavily disrupted for a second year. Picture date: Friday October 15, 2021.

A new study suggests thousands of areas are suffering from poor access to affordable food across the UK – although there are none in the Rugby constituency.

Millions of households are feeling the pinch at the tills this winter, as the soaring cost of fuel has a knock-on effect on everyday essentials.

In response, researchers from the University of Leeds and the consumer champion Which? have created an index ranking areas on how likely they are to need support to access affordable and healthy food.

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    However, none of the constituency's 59 neighbourhoods were ranked as within the worst 20% for food affordability across the UK.

    The index combined factors such as the number of households on low income, proximity to large supermarkets, the number of children on free school meals, and the availability of online deliveries, to assess which areas were the most in need of access to healthy, reasonably-priced food.

    Michelle Morris, associate professor at the University of Leeds, said: “With so many people in the UK already suffering from food insecurity and the cost-of-living crisis making that much worse, we need to do all that we can to support those most in need to access affordable, healthy and sustainable foods."

    Which? has now launched an "affordable food for all" campaign.

    It calls on supermarkets to commit to clear and transparent pricing, access to affordable food ranges across all of their stores, and to prioritise price reductions over multi-buy promotions.

    Figures from the Office for National Statistics show the price of food and non-alcoholic drinks rose by 16.2% in the 12 months to October – which it estimates to be the highest rate since 1980.

    Sue Davies, head of food policy at Which?, said that millions of people were skipping meals due to the cost of living crisis.

    “Supermarkets have the ability to take action and make a real difference to communities all around the UK.

    "That’s why we’re calling on them to ensure everyone has easy access to budget food ranges that enable healthy choices, can easily compare the price of products to get the best value and that promotions are targeted at supporting people most in need,” she added.

    Across England, the North-East suffers the worst access to affordable food, with 45% of areas in the lowest fifth for food affordability.

    This was followed by Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, and the North West, all of which had more than 30% of areas affected.

    ​London and the South East, meanwhile, had the best access to affordable food, with just 4% and 7% of areas impacted respectively.​

    The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs said that food prices are set independently by retailers, and that vulnerable families were receiving Government support for energy bills and other costs.