Food and Fuel Insecurity in Devon

The findings of (1) quantitative and (2) qualitative research into food and fuel insecurity in Devon can be found below.

(1) Food and Fuel Insecurity in Devon, 2023

This research investigates the extent and experience of food and fuel insecurity in households across the county. It is designed to provide up-to-date information on food insecurity levels to compare with findings from a baseline study conducted in March and April 2021, as well as enabling an assessment of the current extent of fuel insecurity in households.

The findings are based on interviews with a representative sample of 1,206 households from across Devon conducted in September and October 2022, and was published in January 2023.

The results show that overall levels of household food insecurity have increased substantially over the last 18 months. 16% of Devon households are now experiencing very low food security compared with 10% in 2021. These households are experiencing substantial disruptions to their eating patterns, such as household members eating less and going hungry. They often reduce food intake because they have insufficient money to pay for enough food.

When asked how they would respond to the forthcoming increases in energy/fuel prices, nearly eight out of ten Devon households said they were planning to reduce energy usage this winter (79%).

Household types likely to be most affected and resort to borrowing, switching off heating altogether, or spending time away from their home while the heating was off including single adults with children, those with lower incomes and children, where respondents or were long-term sick or disabled, were household members had one or more mental/physical health conditions, where the main respondent was unemployed, and those renting from the council or social housing.

The research was untaken by Transform Research on behalf of Devon County Council.

The full report can be accessed below:

Food and Fuel Insecurity in Devon, January 2023

(2) The Face of Food Insecurity in Devon, 2024

The ‘Face of Food Insecurity in Devon: A Qualitative Study’ (2024) was commissioned by Devon County Council’s (DCC) Public Health team and managed by Devon Community Foundation (DFC). It was produced as a counterpart to the survey-based research conducted by Transform Research (2023) described above that aimed to understand the extent of food insecurity in Devon.

This in-depth qualitative research sought to answer questions that the survey could not, including what it feels like to be food insecure in Devon, how households in Devon make decisions about accessing food support, and how this differs for different groups of people. This research had a particular focus on families with multiple challenges, and those from ethnically diverse backgrounds. It also looked at what types of food support were available.

Key findings from the report include:

  • The “profile” of those experiencing food insecurity has broadened significantly in the last few years. Many of those experiencing food insecurity now are doing so for the first time.
  • There has been an increase in the number of working people experiencing food insecurity.
  • Food security is becoming an endemic problem, exacerbated by the cost-of-living crisis, especially the rise in housing costs. In many cases it is not obvious how a household will be able to escape food insecurity.

The report explored factors that affect access to food support, such as location and opening times, perceptions about the quality and nature of food available, communication, and stigma associated with asking for help. It also identified three types of food support; traditional food banks, food clubs and community larders, explaining how each a has role to play in a diverse system of support. Examples of food support around Devon are provided within the report, reflecting the rich array of different models within each of these broad types.

While each model has its strengths and challenges, the report concludes that diversity is key, particularly in rural areas, and that there is a common need to ensure sustainable supplies of food for food support providers into the future. The landscape is complex and good partnership working between local authorities, the voluntary sector and businesses was seen as vital to successfully tackling food insecurity.

The full report can be accessed below:

The Face of Food Insecurity in Devon, February 2024