Food banks in south west Shropshire have never been busier. Ludlow Food Bank alone gave out 560 food parcels in 2020, up from 471 the year before. Bishop’s Castle food bank has also been busy. Now Healthwatch Shropshire is conducting research aimed at understanding food insecurity in south west Shropshire. It wants to hear from those who are struggling to get enough affordable and nutritious food.

Food insecurity is when you do not have enough affordable and nutritious food to help you live healthily.

Some people in rural communities can face additional challenges in getting food locally and need to travel to shop. This can add to any financial difficulties they may already experience because of lower wages and higher energy bills.

The Shaping Places project aims to understand the reasons behind food insecurity and your evidence may help to secure additional funding over the next 3 years to deliver programmes to relieve food poverty in South West Shropshire – Bishops Castle, Craven Arms, Church Stretton, Ludlow, and the surrounding villages and hamlets. People in rural communities can face additional challenges in getting food locally and need to travel to shop. This adds to any financial difficulties they may already experience from lower wages and higher energy bills.

If you are affected by food poverty in any way, please take part in the life experience survey. The survey asks, on a confidential basis, whether you find it difficult to buy healthy food, whether you or your family skip meals and how long this has been going on. Additional questions cover your access to shops, which sort of shops you use and whether you have ever used a food bank.

If you are an organisation involved in helping alleviate food poverty, please complete the organisation survey. This asks about the organisation and how it helps address food insecurity. The project team also ask would make the most difference to widening access to healthy affordable food.

There are also opportunities to take part in Zoom discussions on food insecurity.

The Healthier Lives project

Shropshire Council and its partners have been successful in securing ‘Shaping Places for Healthier Lives’ grant funding from the Local Government Association (LGA) supported by Health Foundation. ‘Shaping Places’ focuses on reducing health inequalities by addressing a complex problem.

In this case it is food insecurity. During the ‘Discovery’ phase the focus is on South-West Shropshire, which includes the towns of Bishops Castle, Ludlow, Craven Arms, Church Stretton and their surrounding villages and hamlets. The grant will be used to  work alongside communities in South-West Shropshire to better understand the reasons causing food insecurity and the impact it has on people’s lives.

The findings will inform a final application to the LGA for significant additional funding over the next three years. If successful, this will then enable the project team to meaningfully co-produce and deliver sustainable action to address food insecurity with rural communities across the whole of Shropshire.

The project team includes Healthwatch Shropshire, the Shropshire Food Poverty Alliance, Shropshire Council and Citizens Advice Shropshire.

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