On Monday 18 January, Katie Palmer travelled to London to discuss monitoring of food insecurity in the UK. This is what she has to say:
We know (those of us working on the ground) that there is a huge issue of food insecurity in the UK. We may argue about how to measure poverty (relative, before housing costs, minimum income standards etc) but we can’t argue with the evidence that presents in the Public Health arena around the health inequalities that are resulting from poor and insufficient dietary intakes.
Travelling from Cardiff to London to meet with experts and activists in the area of food poverty from all the UK nations I pondered the question we were to discuss “What’s the way forward on Food Poverty Monitoring?” Do we need a measure of food insecurity when we already have measures of Poverty? One would assume Poverty and food insecurity are synonymous – they are not. If we could have the ultimate measure would policy makers and politicians sit up and take notice of the resulting evidence? Or are we better to get on with developing and delivering programmes on the ground, gathering evidence as we go?
Listening to the experts I had my ideas challenged. I’m a believer in taking action, getting things done and gathering new evidence on the journey. However we are currently relying on incomplete evidence on Food Security, relying on reporting from 1 player in the Food Bank world and we know that these food poverty figures are the tip of the iceberg. Sat in a room at City University on a cold January day I was won over by one slide. Professor Valerie Tarasuk presented the work from Canada on measuring Food Insecurity through an 18 question biannual survey. A graph showing a linear relationship between Food Insecurity and Healthcare costs in Canada demonstrated just how powerful this data could be – surely UK policy makers would have to take notice of this kind of evidence?
But my feeling is that measuring is still only part of the story. If the monitoring is to make a real difference we need to be able to find a way of harnessing that evidence to influence policy. That may mean aiding Public Health and Civil society in navigating the political processes and it means that all of us in that room need to aid innovation to come up with creative solutions.
Thank you Food Research collaboration, Food Foundation, Sustainable Food Cities and Oxfam for a challenging and thought provoking day – my learning has already been shared and is influencing the wider thinking in Wales.
I would recommend anyone interested in this issue of food insecurity to watch Professor Tarasuk’s presentation given at City University.