Economics: Food insecurity in the UK – before and after Covid

Date : 01 April 2021

The latest edition of the DWP’s long-running Family Resources Survey (FRS) has just been published, with data for 2019-20.

The new version includes, for the first time, data on food insecurity. According to this, food security in the UK during the study period was as follows:

  • High security 87% - sufficient, varied food for an active, healthy lifestyle
  • Marginal security 6%
  • Low security 4%
  • Very low security - 4% - risk of, or no access to sufficient, varied food for an active, healthy lifestyle

Detailed tables are available. The data suggests that food insecurity tends to be associated with age – young adults being more insecure – and (unsurprisingly) with low income.

Note that the data runs April 2019 – Mar 2020, so it does not cover the impact of Covid. But it is clear that some people were not in a good position even before Covid arrived.

A more recent study by the FSA covers July to August 2020, giving an impression of the position during the Coronavirus outbreak.

At this point, food security in the study area (England, Northern Ireland and Wales) was as follows *:

  • High security 72%
  • Marginal security 12%
  • Low security 9%
  • Very low security 7%

Care should be taken in comparing results of the two surveys, especially in view of the differing sample frames, but the questions used are very similar implying that DWP and FSA are using similar definitions.

However the difference between the two suggests a dramatic downturn in food security in a very short space of time, presumably due to Coronavirus.

* Note that Scotland is covered by a separate agency Food Standards Scotland

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