Food Poverty and the NHS

Dr Glynne Roberts, Programme Director (Well North Wales)

Food poverty occurs when individuals and families are not able to access food that meets their daily nutritional needs and requirements, and, for some, food poverty is so entrenched that it can often result in negative implications to their health and wellbeing, often contributing to diet related disease including obesity, diabetes and heart disease.

So what has the food poverty agenda got to do with the NHS? A lot.

Can the NHS make a significant contribution? I believe so.

Are we in North Wales set up in readiness to do something positive? Definitely!

From an NHS perspective, our contribution to the wider health inequalities agenda needs to be in line with our particular contribution – we are not here to take over the world, and have to accept that the majority of issues affecting the determinants of health fall outside the traditional domain of the NHS.

Inequality is no longer a simple choice between the waged and unwaged. In-work poverty is a real issue. NHS staff access food banks, and there is a desire within North wales to support staff in terms of food availability and cooking skills.

There is a long-standing community programme, with dieticians running “Come and Cook” classes. Can we do something for our own staff?

We have a number of highly skilled chefs, who every day cook on an industrial scale. Some of them would be delighted to utilise their skills in support of teaching NHS colleagues how to cook.

We also purchase food on an industrial scale! Is there an avenue here that can be explored?

If we can establish a series of in-house programmes to begin with, we can look to expand that to a community setting, working with partner organisations to make a real difference within our disadvantaged communities.

The North Wales Food Poverty Alliance will provide us with the support mechanism to work across our region, harnessing the contribution of universities, local authorities, voluntary organisations… and the NHS. We do have a contribution to make. Hopefully a valuable one.

So what do you think?

- What else can BCUHB be doing as a change maker on this important agenda?

- What can you bring to the North Wales Food Alliance?

- How can we all reach out to wider networks, and promote this important agenda?


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