Support for families as food poverty rises

    If your family is struggling to afford to eat healthily and keep warm this winter remember support is available through a number of schemes.

    If your family is struggling to afford to eat healthily and keep warm this winter remember support is available through a number of schemes.

    These schemes include those being delivered by us and our partners and those we are delivering on behalf of the Government.

    A survey we commissioned found that the number of Devon households unable to access or afford the food that they need to ensure that they and their families stay healthy has increased by 70 per cent in 18 months.

    We also found that more than a third (36 per cent) said that they had planned on switching off their heating altogether this winter to help make ends meet.

    The Independent Food and Fuel Insecurity Survey commissioned by Public Health Devon also reveals that food insecurity amongst Devon’s households has increased from 17 per cent in Spring 2021 to 29 per cent during Autumn last year.

    It compared a baseline study conducted in March and April 2021 with interviews of 1,206 households in September and October 2022.

    The results show that 70 per cent of all households with an income of less than £16,190 and children have low food and fuel security, while 60 per cent of single adult households with children are affected.

    High rates of food insecurity were also found in households where the main respondent is long-term sick or disabled (58 per cent); where at least one person has a mental health condition (55 per cent); and where the main respondent is unemployed (55 per cent).

    Additionally, the proportion of Devon households who have accessed emergency food support in the previous 30 days had more than doubled from two per cent to five per cent.

    The study also looked at fuel insecurity and found that 36 per cent had planned to switch their heating off altogether and 15 per cent said they aimed to spend time ‘somewhere else’ to keep warm.

    Sixteen per cent also said they would have to ‘borrow’ to pay their bills.

    Councillor Roger Croad, DCC’s Cabinet Member for Public Health, Communities and Equality, said:

    “We know that people are struggling with rising costs of energy and food at a time when a lot of households have seen reductions in their incomes, meaning that some people in Devon are not eating properly or able heat their homes. This research helps us to better understand the extent of the problem locally.

    “There are a variety of schemes on offer depending on your circumstances and I would encourage people to visit our cost of living webpages to find out more and access support where possible.”

    Steve Brown, Devon’s Director of Public Health, said:

    “This research gives us a fuller understanding of the extent and experience of food insecurity across Devon and how this has changed since 2021, how fuel and food insecurity interact with each other, and the impact of both on local people and their families.

    “It will help us determine what local help and support is needed, and where to target that help to support Devon’s residents during the current cost-of-living crisis.”

    Steve Brown, Director of Public Health Devon

    Devon County Council is working with local partners, including local councils, the NHS and the voluntary and community sector, on ways to support communities.

    These include:

    Household Support Fund

    This fund is to support households that are struggling to pay for food, energy, water bills and other related essentials; especially those who may not be eligible for other Government support.

    Free School Meals and Free school meals holiday voucher scheme

    All children up to year two at state schools in England automatically get free school meals. From year 3 onwards, you may continue to qualify. You can check eligibility and apply on our Free School Meals page. Additionally, families in Devon on low incomes, whose children receive free school meals, also receive school meals holiday vouchers which are funded by the Household Support Fund. To see if your child is eligible for free school meals, or to apply, please visit our website or call our Education Helpline on 0345 155 1019

    Growing Communities Fund

    Devon County Council can award grants of £500 – £3,000 to groups or projects that:

    Address hardship such as food or fuel insecurity, offering warm safe spaces, something to eat and drink, and a place to work, learn or socialise. 

    Building community resilience – e.g., guidance on budgeting, cooking low-cost nutritional meals. 

    Tackling loneliness and isolation

    Locality Budget

    An annual budget for each elected member to respond to local community issues, such as but not limited to hardship and poverty, loneliness, and isolation in their Division

    Citizens Advice Devon

    Devon County Council continues to provide funding to Citizens Advice Devon to provide independent and impartial support and advice.

    The Holiday Activity and Food Programme

    This programme supports children to eat more healthily, be more active over the school holidays and have a greater knowledge of health and nutrition as well as be more engaged with school and other local services.

    Libraries for Life

    Libraries across Devon and Torbay are providing warm welcoming spaces, where people can use the free Wi-Fi and computers if they wish to access any of the available online support. Some libraries also have community fridge projects, that make surplus food from local supermarkets available to all for free. Contact your local library for details.

    For more information visit our cost of living webpages.

    You can access the Food and Fuel Insecurity Survey on Public Health Devon’s website.

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