Support available for older people experiencing high levels of food poverty in B&NES

The research, commissioned by Bath & North East Somerset Council, was carried ou
The research, commissioned by Bath & North East Somerset Council, was carried out by researchers from Bath’s Department of Psychology.

University of Bath psychology research from Dr Leda Blackwood and Rebecca Hurwitz reveals high levels of food insecurity for older people on low incomes.

  • Published on Monday 13 November 2023
  • Last updated on Monday 13 November 2023

New research commissioned by Bath & North East Somerset Council has revealed high levels of food insecurity for older people who are on low incomes.

The two studies by the University of Bath, carried out by academics in the Department of Psychology, concluded that social connection, as well as health and financial resources, are key to reducing the risk of food insecurity.

A questionnaire to B&NES residents receiving pension credit showed that nearly half of respondents (46%) reported some degree of food insecurity over the past 12 months.

Around a third of participants (34%) reported worrying about food running out before they could afford to buy more and indicated that it was often or sometimes true that they could not afford to eat balanced meals (33.6%). One in ten respondents said that they sometimes or often didn’t have enough to eat in the past 12 months.

The most common source of support for respondents was friends and family. While most had people to help them if they really needed it, close to one quarter did not. Twenty-three percent said they did not have anyone locally they could depend on and one in ten felt they did not know anyone who would help them.

A second study, which carried out in-depth interviews with a smaller sample of older residents and health and care workers across B&NES, also highlighted social connection as protective against food insecurity. Alongside the rising cost of food and fuel, older people talked of tasks such as shopping, food preparation, and socialising as becoming increasingly difficult due to health and mobility issues, including access to suitable transport.

Bath & North East Somerset Council is urging people struggling with food insecurity to come forward for help with food and financial issues, and other support available locally.

Rebecca Reynolds, Director of Public Health and Prevention at Bath & North East Somerset Council, said: "We commissioned this research to shed new light on the issue of food insecurity in B&NES as we knew from previous local research that older people were much less likely to use our food banks or food pantries. These findings add to our knowledge and will inform the work we do locally to address food insecurity. We’d urge anyone who is struggling to afford enough food to eat to get in touch with us at the earliest opportunity.

"Feedback from residents indicates that food insecurity in B&NES has risen recently. Alongside people on low incomes with children and those with disabilities, some older people are managing a complex set of challenges including low income, health and mobility issues and a lack of social connection affecting their ability to access, cook and eat affordable healthy food. Through sharing our findings we want to start a conversation with local communities about what more we can all do at a neighbourhood level to tackle food insecurity and social isolation."

Dr Leda Blackwood , Department of Psychology at the University of Bath, said: "Our research found that amidst the wealth of Bath and surrounding towns and villages, many people have been struggling for some time with food insecurity. People are incredibly resourceful but low wages and benefits and the loss of vital services through austerity have left their mark - particularly for those who don’t have family and friends they can rely on."

Learn more about the research and support available to local citizens.