Measuring and Monitoring Food Poverty - Notes from Food Poverty Alliance sub-group

Here are the notes from the sub-group that looked at measuring and monitoring food poverty and the impact of our interventions - all actions were included in the Food Poverty Action Plan for Greater Manchester. What do you think? Have we missed anything? How might these actions be taken forward, and can you play a part in this?

Measuring and monitoring food poverty and the impact of our interventions – Dr Charlie Spring

There is currently no national measurement of food insecurity. Unlike other wealthy but unequal countries, the UK does not include monitoring of food insecurity as part of existing national monitoring surveys. The lack of quantification of increasingly-apparent hunger limits understanding of its causes and the effectiveness of its remedies, a situation that civil society groups have been contesting. As Emma Lewell-Buck, MP for South Shields, argues of her ongoing parliamentary bill, “in the absence of any robust measurement in place, policy making to mitigate hunger will never be a reality”.

While supporting the national campaign to measure food insecurity, we see the potential for different forms of measurement at neighbourhood, borough and combined-authority levels to drive the case for intervention and assess the impact of such intervention. In Canada, for example, community-level surveys revealed that food insecurity did not appear to be lower when people lived closer to shops and community food programmes, but led to recognition of the problem by policy-makers and the adoption of national forms of measurement. To date, food bank usage has been used as a proxy for food insecurity, an indicator that research has proved to be inadequate for various reasons, including evidence that many food-insecure people choose not to access food banks, and Trussell Trust food banks are just one source of food assistance, with many organisations providing food but not necessarily keeping data about who is accessing it, or why. In the absence of national measurement, researchers are seeking better ways of using existing data to predict the risk of families going hungry. One task of this sub-group, then, is to identify existing data and assess different boroughs’ attempts to mitigate food insecurity.

Aim 1: Local government to adopt shared definition of problem, and measure it

  • Borough councils and GMCA each to appoint responsible person for coordinating food-related activity between departments
  • Borough councils and GMCA to adopt an agreed definition of food poverty. This should acknowledge social acceptability, health, affordability and geographical access of food acquisition/provisioning; as well as diverse aspects of lived experience, acute/chronic dimensions, and relevance to Greater Manchester [Partners: food support providers, public health officers, experts by experience]
  • Use existing data-collection processes, tools and proxy measures to predict greatest risks and costs of food insecurity e.g. mapping, database building, social value methodologies [Partners: Universities, Food Power evaluation team, housing association/council surveys, New Economy, CLES, food providers, Anthesis]
  • Identify gaps in data and design measure to monitor food insecurity e.g. annual phone survey [cit Brighton?], door-to-door community survey using Household Food Security Module in at-risk neighbourhoods

Aim 2: Public is aware and engaged in solving food insecurity

  • Raise awareness: generate shared understandings, engage stakeholders and highlight stories of lived experience, including diverse voices [Partners: Alliance, Poverty Truth Commission, IFAN/Storybank, food support providers]
  • Disseminate local government/Alliance research, ensuring accessible to different audiences. [Potential partners: Alliance, Kelloggs, social marketers/Creative Concern]

Aim 3 – Monitor preventative policy and action

  • Apply Sustain’s Beyond the Food Bank survey to GM level: to rank, monitor and encourage borough-level action to prevent hunger [Partners: Measuring & Monitoring sub-group, appointed food council member responsible for filling survey]
  • Evaluate impacts of working in alliance to achieve collective aim: to eradicate hunger and end food bank reliance [Partners: Food Power’s local evaluation programme]
    • Self-evaluation survey by Alliance members to assess collective impact
    • Monitor progress against action plan [Partner: Greater Manchester Food Forum, Food Power]

Sustain, Food Research Collaboration, ESRC, The Food Foundation, Oxfam, & University of Oxford. (2016). Time to count the hungry: The case for a standard measure of household food insecurity in the UK . Retrieved from

Lewell-Buck, E. (2018). If we measure it, we can mend it. End Hunger UK.

Kirkpatrick, S. I., & Tarasuk, V. (2010). Assessing the relevance of neighbourhood characteristics to the household food security of low-income Toronto families. Public Health Nutrition , 13 (7), 1139–1148.

Loopstra, R., & Tarasuk, V. (2014). Food bank usage is a poor indicator of food insecurity: Insights from Canada. Social Policy and Society , 14 (3), 443–455.

Smith, D., Thompson, C., Harland, K., Parker, S., & Shelton, N. (2018). Identifying populations and areas at greatest risk of household food insecurity in England. Applied Geography , 91 (2018), 21–31.

Kirkpatrick, S. I., & Tarasuk, V. (2010). Assessing the relevance of neighbourhood characteristics to the household food security of low-income Toronto families. Public Health Nutrition , 13 (7), 1139–1148.