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The worst areas in the UK for affordable food access

John Fitzsimons
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John Fitzsimons

A new study has revealed the areas of the UK where residents are most likely to need support in order to have access to healthy and affordable food.

The study by consumer group Which? included a range of factors when looking at access to healthy affordable food. These included income levels, the presence of large supermarkets nearby, the availability of online shopping deliveries and circumstances which can make it difficult to shop around (like no car access).

It found that the North East of England was the worst impacted, with almost half (45%) of local areas in need of extra support. Which? said that this was due to a tendency to have poor access to deliveries, a poorer than average proximity to supermarkets, and an increased reliance on food support like food banks and free school meals.

Around a third of local areas in Yorkshire and the Humber, the West Midlands, and the North West were found to be in need of extra help in the study.

Worst area for affordable food access

Digging into individual areas, Birmingham Hodge Hill was considered the worst, with 100% of its local areas in need of additional support. Which? found that it had poor online delivery access, high levels of fuel poverty and significant numbers with a low income or no car access.

It was followed by Knowsley in Merseyside, with 96% of its local areas in need of support. Which? found that it had half the number of large supermarkets compared to the national average, which may make it harder for residents to find affordable food.

According to the analysis, around seven in 10 UK parliamentary constituencies have at least one area in need of urgent help accessing affordable food.

Supermarkets must do more

The study comes on the same day that Kantar has reported food price inflation has hit a new record high, with little sign that the top has been reached.

Which? called on supermarkets to do more to support customers through the crisis, by making prices easy to understand, ensuring that budget lines which include healthy choices are available throughout stores and online, and by targeting promotions in areas which are most likely to be struggling.

Previous research has suggested that food price worries have led to people skipping meals entirely.

Michelle Morris, associate professor of nutrition and lifestyle analytics at the University of Leeds ‒ which collaborated with Which? on the study ‒ said: “With so many people in the UK already suffering from food insecurity and the cost of living crisis making that much worse, we need to do all that we can to support those most in need to access affordable, healthy and sustainable foods.

She added that a ‘one size fits all’ approach will not work, with tailored help required in order to assist the neighbourhoods that need support the most.