Public health to look at food poverty in Hertfordshire

The ongoing work was reported to a meeting of the county council’s public health and prevention cabinet panel

Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 8:42 am
Updated Wednesday, 16th December 2020, 9:26 am

Public health bosses in Hertfordshire have launched a project to look at the levels and impact of ‘food poverty’ across the county.

Food poverty, say public health officials, can lead to excess weight and poorer physical health, as well as impacting on children’s learning and social development.

And – in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic – it’s an issue that has been highlighted nationally, in a campaign led by footballer Marcus Rashford.

The photo has been used for illustration purposes

Over the next six months public health officials in Hertfordshire will to research the scale of food poverty in the county, as well as the ways that it affects people.

And then they will draw-up recommendations about measures that could be taken to prevent it and to support those who face it.

The ongoing work was reported to a meeting of the county council’s public health and prevention cabinet panel on Wednesday, December 9, as part of an update on the council’s obesity programme.

Health improvement lead Faith Eddleston told councillors that the Covid-19 pandemic – and its economic impact – had put a spotlight on food poverty.

And – pointing to the increasing use of food banks – she suggested it was increasing locally.

Councillors were told that people in food poverty were less likely to be eating a healthy diet and were more likely to be in poorer health.

That could, said Ms Eddleston, include excess weight and dietary illnesses like type 2 diabetes – as well as poorer mental health.

And she said there was evidence that it had a negative impact on the learning and social development of young people, who may perform less well in school.

“We want to know and understand how many people food poverty is affecting and who is most at risk, and where and why,” she told the panel.

“And [we want to know] what we can do to better support people those people or prevent them ending up in food poverty.”

According to the report ,the ‘needs assessment’ will be complete in May (2021), then a report will be drawn up for the cabinet panel.

It will provide an insight into food poverty and how it affects people living in Hertfordshire.

And it will make recommendations about what can be done to support and prevent people from facing food poverty.

Commenting on the work, executive member for public health and prevention Cllr Tim Hutchings said: “This is a extremely important subject.

“Its something we need to get to grips with. And from my perspective it’s driven by a desire to understand not only the causes but how we best deal with it.”

Cllr Hutchings said that he hoped it would put together a case that is built on facts rather than anecdotes.

Last month the council announced plans to distribute food vouchers to those eligible for free school meals during the Christmas school holidays. The vouchers are due to be distributed through schools.