Blog: COVID and Food Insecurity - What next?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shone a light on the importance and resilience of our health and what communities can do together to protect it. With what we eat being a key driver of our health, locally during Lockdown, the Guernsey Welfare Service delivered 840 food parcels to 1,216 individuals from 423 households to provide them with a reliable source of food. People used the service for a range of reasons, from families who struggled to shop without taking their children along, to those facing unemployment or reduced hours/wages and those needing to fill the gap whilst accessing Social Security support. 137 (32%) of the households supported by the Guernsey Welfare Service were not existing clients and the majority lived in States Housing, clearly demonstrating the fragile position some local families are in when it comes to accessing food. Les Cotils also set up a service delivering meals three times a week to families in need.
During lockdown, The Commission provided 8,360 portions of fresh vegetables and fruit to the families using the Welfare Service. The feedback was positive, including reports of increased requests for the fresh produce.
The Food Foundation, a UK based charity, estimated that five million people in households with children experienced food insecurity during lockdown (explanation of the term further down); compared to two million before. According to the report, the most at risk of being Food Insecure were people with underlying health conditions, people with disabilities, people isolating, ethnic minority groups and households with 5 or more people. In addition, the NCD Alliance, have indicated that there is a growing evidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) putting people at risk of COVID. Poor long-term nutrition can increase the risk of NCDs such as Type 2 Diabetes and High Blood Pressure. As such, individuals that are unable to access healthy foods can indirectly be at risk of further disadvantage as they face the pandemic.
As shown in the infographic, we need to address food insecurity, access to healthy food, the retail environments which shape our diets and inequalities as interconnected issues. The theme of our local lockdown was #GuernseyTogether. A collaborative and joined up focus on ensuring equal access to nutritious diets will ensure this theme carries on and that everyone can easily access affordable, healthy food. As a Commission, we will continue to focus our work for those who need the support to eat well and address barriers that may be preventing this and we need to do this alongside government action. We are also expanding our team so that we can do more to work alongside islanders to make our local food environment healthier by default.
To be a classified as Food Insecure, respondents in the Food Foundations report would have answered yes to any of the 3 questions:
1. have smaller meals than usual or skip meals because you couldn't afford or get access to food?
2. ever been hungry or not eaten because you couldn't afford or get access to food?
3. not eaten for a whole day because you couldn't afford or get access to food?
The questions are part of the US Department of Agriculture's Food Insecurity survey module, a validated survey tool for high-income countries to capture moderate and severe experiences in food insecurity.