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Southampton research shows regions in the North have higher risk of food insecurity

Southampton research shows regions in the North have higher risk of food insecurity

A research team based at the University of Southampton and funded by the National Institute for Health Research ARC Wessex*, has created an index showing which neighbourhoods in England are at the highest risk of food insecurity.

The map and data can be used by local authorities as a way to target support and help those families most at risk. Dr Dianna Smith from the University led development of the data set, funded by ARC Wessex for research to reduce health inequalities in children and families (as part of Wessex FRIEND with Dr Nisreen Alwan):

“Food security for households is influenced by multiple factors, from individual circumstances to local access to affordable resources. We worked with local governments and charities to create a measure of food insecurity risk in neighbourhoods that captures these barriers and have made it available to support people working to place interventions or other support where they are most needed.”

The Food Insecurity Risk Indices for the first time can identify risk to a smaller scale than was possible before, helping to target local council neighbourhoods. These Indices were informed by published research and interviews with local government teams and food aid providers to find out what characteristics are associated with food insecurity. In all almost 33,000 areas were mapped in England and areas at most risk are identified. They include:

  • Middlesbrough

  • Blackburn with Darwen

  • The Wirral

  • Birmingham

  • Wigan

  • Kingston Upon Hull

  • Oldham

From the data collected urban areas can carry a higher risk of food insecurity and for local city councils the detailed mapping can help to target neighbourhoods for support.

Sara Crawford is a Improvement Manager at Southampton City Council:

“The food poverty risk measures have been really helpful in giving us and our partners the information we need to better inform, design and target food aid support in the city”

In England a third of at-risk areas were in the North west and 96% of those were urban areas. Data were compared with childhood obesity rates, income deprivation and free school meal which are associated with food insecurity, and there was agreement between these data. More complex indices included mental health, educational attainment, access to transport, local shopping and even broadband availability to estimate food insecurity risk.

For a full run down of the data and maps you can get access to the tool at

For details contact:

Jamie Stevenson at NIHR ARC Wessex at

Notes to editors:

Dr Dianna Smith is a Lecturer in Geographical Information Systems and Health Geography at the University of Southampton. She has been working with ARC Wessex to identify areas and household profiles at risk of food insecurity and child poverty. (Details here)

The mission of the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) is to improve the health and wealth of the nation through research. We do this by:

  • Funding high quality, timely research that benefits the NHS, public health and social care;

  • Investing in world-class expertise, facilities and a skilled delivery workforce to translate discoveries into improved treatments and services;

  • Partnering with patients, service users, carers and communities, improving the relevance, quality and impact of our research;

  • Attracting, training and supporting the best researchers to tackle complex health and social care challenges;

Collaborating with other public funders, charities and industry to help shape a cohesive and globally competitive research system;

Funding applied global health research and training to meet the needs of the poorest people in low and middle income countries.

NIHR is funded by the Department of Health and Social Care. Its work in low and middle income countries is principally funded through UK Aid from the UK government.

*National Institute of Health Research Applied Research Collaboration for Wessex (NIHR ARC Wessex) conducts applied health research with partners and others in the health and care sector, alongside patients and members of the public.

Applied health research aims to address the immediate issues facing the health and social care system. We also help bring research evidence into practice and provide training for the local workforce.

Data Appendix with sources follows


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