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The University of Southampton
Geography and Environmental Science

New Index shows regions in the north have higher risk of food insecurity

Published: 15 February 2023
Associate Professor Dianna Smith
Associate Professor Dianna Smith

Associate Professor Dianna Smith and Professor of Public Health, Nisreen Alwan from Faculty of Medicine have developed a new index that reveals neighbourhoods in the north of England have the highest risk of food insecurity.

Published in the journal PLOS ONE, the Food Insecurity Risk Indices can identify risk to a smaller scale than ever before as it not only includes details about the geographical area, but also the characteristics of the population.

The Index showed a third of at-risk areas were in the north-west and 96 percent of those were urban areas including areas such as the Wirral, Blackpool, Stockport, Middlesborough and St Helens.

The Index was developed for more than 30,000 neighbourhoods across England with populations between 1,000 to 3,000 people. The index calculates food insecurity risk for all areas based on benefits claimants and low-income at a household level, as well as data on mental health and adult educational attainment.


Food Insecurity Risk Ranks Composition in England
Food Insecurity Risk Ranks Composition in England

The study also created another index (structural risk) which included data on the obstacles people face when living in those areas, such as distance to large supermarkets where food is cheaper, broadband speed and public transport links. The researchers say this Structural Index is important to provide details of barriers in more rural areas alongside the main Index.

The researchers say the map and data can be used by local authorities to better target support and help those households most at risk, ensuring their limited budgets are spent in the areas that need it the most.

The researchers have made the maps and data freely available at My Local Map to encourage local authorities to be better prepared and provide targeted help and support.

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