Healthier Resilient Food Systems

The Covid-19 outbreak has shone a spotlight on widespread health inequalities in our society, as well as on the ways the food system is connected to these inequalities. The food system includes all aspects of our food - the way we produce and supply our food, the food environments we live in, and ultimately the food we access and eat. These overlapping and intertwined aspects of the food system have direct and indirect impacts on our health and wellbeing, including on levels of overweight and obesity. Taken together, the food system is a recognised driver of health inequalities (1).

Our food supply, local food environments, food insecurity in our populations, and equitable access to healthy diet have all been affected by the outbreak and have required response, both at central and local levels. This in turn has put a new focus on the need for robust food strategy, something that is already underway within the National Food Strategy Review, led by Henry Dimbleby. At the local level, food strategy can inform planning to:

  • support national and local obesity strategies
  • support equitable food access and provision 
  • include food within local emergency and outbreak plans 

The PHE Health and Wellbeing Team of Yorkshire & The Humber is undertaking a package of work related to the food system, its importance to the health of our local populations, and its influence on health inequalities.  This work is led by Kristin Bash (kristin.bash@phe.gov.uk) and Nicola Corrigan (nicola.corrigan@phe.gov.uk) and will consist of the following workstreams.

Workstream One – Food Insecurity

The impact of Covid-19 and its response has highlighted is the growing awareness of food insecurity and an increasing number of households that experience it. In May 2020, there were nearly 5 million people in the UK experiencing food insecurity, including 1.7 million children; this represents a 250% increase over levels seen before the Covid-19 outbreak (2).

The issue of food insecurity in the UK is important: what it means, how it is measured, who in our society is currently living with it, and what impact Covid-19 outbreak has had.  We have produced a webinar to give summary of evidence on a range of health and wellbeing outcomes associated with food insecurity. What do we know about how food insecurity affects the mental health of an individual? What physical health outcomes are associated with food insecurity? Is a child’s development or success in school affected by episodes of food insecurity within their household? Finally, the webinar will pose the question – if food insecurity is a public health issue, then how should it be addressed?

A webinar recording and link to further resources can be found on the tabs below

Workstream Two – Local Food Strategy Development

Working from a place-led interest in food systems, we are working with local partners to co-design a plan of work to support the development of local food strategies.  Working through a series of webinar workshops, we will work together with local partners in the following ways:

  • Identify ways local food strategy can build resilience in, and equitable access to, a healthy food supply at local level
  • Determine what work is needed at local level to support development of a food strategy
  • Co-develop with place-based partners a framework and toolkit for local use in development and support of a food strategy

Workstream 2 - Webinar Workshop - 'Creating a sustainable local food strategy – Responding to Covid, planning for the future' - 28 September 2020, MS Teams.  

For further information and online booking, please click here or select this tab link below

  1. Marmot M. Health equity in England: the Marmot review 10 years on. BMJ 2020; 368: m693.
  2. Loopstra 2020 Vulnerability to food insecurity since the COVID-19 lockdown.pdf.