Prevalence of food security in the UK measured by the Food Insecurity Experience Scale

Pool, Ursula orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-3658-3346 and Dooris, Mark T orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-5986-1660 (2021) Prevalence of food security in the UK measured by the Food Insecurity Experience Scale. Journal of Public Health . ISSN 1741-3842

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Measurement of UK food insecurity has historically been inconsistent, making it difficult to understand trends. This study contributes by reporting and analysing data from a national survey conducted in line with UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) recommendations and standard methods, providing an internationally comparable pre-coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) snapshot of food insecurity.

Data came from a nationally representative 2019 UK sample (N = 2000) surveyed by Ipsos-Mori. Prevalence of food insecurity was assessed using the UN FAO Food Insecurity Experience Scale. Logistic regression was used to model food insecurity in relation to geographic and socio-demographic variables.

Severe food insecurity was reported by 3% of the sample, an increase of 66.7% over the last directly comparable UK analysis (Gallup World Poll data from 2016 to 2018). Indication of some degree of food insecurity was reported by 14.2% of the sample and tended to be higher amongst younger age groups, those on lower incomes, and home renters (as opposed to owners). No geographic variables were significantly associated with food insecurity prevalence.

The finding that prevalence of severe food insecurity was already increasing before the COVID-19 pandemic, across all areas of the UK, is cause for concern. Our results provide an important benchmark for assessing the impact of COVID-19 on food insecurity.

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