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Access to food in emergencies: learning from COVID-19 report by British Red Cross

The British Red Cross have released a new report, Access to food in emergencies: learning from COVID-19

Since the COVID-19 crisis began, there has been an immense collective effort to support people affected by the pandemic. Together, we have worked tirelessly to ensure vulnerable people have what they need to cope, whether that be food, medicine, connections or emergency cash provision.

However, despite these efforts, people have fallen through the gaps. This report unpicks what the British Red Cross has learnt so far, about what works, where the gaps are and what practical steps can be taken to ensure a human-centred approach to emergency food provision in the next phases of the COVID-19 response and in future emergencies.

An overview of emergency food provision during COVID-19: 

  • No single agency has a specific statutory duty to provide humanitarian assistance, including food, in an emergency under the relevant legislation, the Civil Contingencies Act 2004.
  • The COVID-19 emergency has reduced access to food for some in the UK.
  • The causes of food insecurity are complex but key factors include, isolation, poor physical or mental health, lack of employment, financial hardship and insecure accommodation, all of which have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Food provision during the course of the emergency is not always tailored to meet individual needs and looks different across the country.

Recommendations: 

The following recommendations have been designed to help ensure a human-centred approach to emergency food provision in the next phases of the COVID-19 response and in future emergencies:

  1. Consider making the provision of accessible, nutritious food a statutory requirement in emergency response.
  2. Identify those most at risk so that support can be targeted and reach those most in need.
  3. Ensure food provided in an emergency is suitable and meets people’s needs as far as is practical.
  4. Utilise the strength and insight of the voluntary and community sector to help tackle food insecurity in local areas.
  5. Put in measures to tackle the longer-term causes of food insecurity to help prevent people reaching crisis point in the future.

The British Red Cross hope these lessons learnt and recommendations helpfully inform your organisation’s next steps. If you want to join the discussion, follow them on @RedCrossPolicy and use the hashtag #PowerofKindness

To read the full report, please click here.