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New strategy hopes to tackle 'food deserts' in Bradford

Almost a quarter of Bradford residents live in “food deserts” - areas where there is little access to fresh, healthy food.

And that number rises to almost two thirds when looking at families with less than £20,000 income a year – according to a recent survey.


The figures were revealed during a presentation on Bradford’s new Good Food Strategy – a plan that aims to improve access to healthy food for people across the District.


The strategy also calls for water to become the “first choice drink” and for local influencers to be recruited to promote healthy eating.


Members of the Bradford and Airedale Wellbeing Board were told that areas were classed as food deserts if people living there would have to walk more than 20 minutes to buy fresh food, such as fruit or vegetables.


The lack of access to healthy food was described as a “big concern” that the strategy would aim to address through schemes like community gardens and encouraging business like convenience stores to stock healthier products.


Objectives of the plan include;


  • Creating an eating well culture

  • Tackling food insecurities

  • Developing Community-led food growing

  • Creating a more sustainable food system, with more food grown and sourced locally


Tim Howells – Head of Public Health: Healthy Communities, told the Board that a recent consultation on the developing strategy found 22 per cent of people lived in areas of the District that had no access to fresh food within a 20 minute walk.


For households with an income of £20,000 or less, this increased to 63 per cent.


Over 1,000 people from across the District responded to the consultation.


One aim of the consultation will be to make sure “food deserts no longer exist” in Bradford.


This would be achieved by working with smaller retailers, and developing mobile food stores and pantries.


Areas identified in the consultation as being a considerable distance from fresh food stores included areas in Tyersal and Holme Wood.


On its goal to create an “eating well culture” the strategy says: “Our aim is to change the culture around food to one that normalises eating well across settings and environments, supports development of people’s knowledge and skills and their access to attractive and affordable healthy food.”


Another ambitious goal included in the scheme is to “make water the default option in places where drinks are sold/served.”


It also suggests people be offered access to free water through public buildings and community venues.


Explaining the ways these goals can be achieved, the strategy says: “(We will) identify local ‘influencers’, chefs, and personalities who can promote simple home cooked food, endorse eating well options and water as first choice drink, putting a Bradford face to a positive marketing campaign which pragmatically engages with local social and cultural challenges.


“We will engage with food businesses to understand economic impact commercial drivers for menu improvements and promotion of eating well.”


Calling for more food to be grown locally, the strategy says: “Anyone wishing to grow their own fruit or vegetables can access opportunities in their local area – starting as small as people wish.”


The strategy also aims to make it cheaper to eat healthily – acknowledging that the healthy option isn’t always the cheapest.


It says: “Food Foundation data from 2015/16 showed that the poorest 10 per cent of UK households would need to spend 74 per cent of their disposable income after housing on food to meet the cost of the Eatwell Guide (an NHS guide to a healthy diet) compared to just 6 per cent of disposable income in the wealthiest 10 per cent.


“This will have increased substantially with current inflation rates and the cost of living crisis.”


Charlotte Ramsden, CEO of the Bradford Children’s Trust, said access to healthy food was not the only issue. She said: “There is also access to cooking facilities. Some disadvantaged families have nothing to cook with – they might have a microwave if they are lucky. To prepare healthy food they need cooking facilities.”


Rose Dunlop, public health consultant, acknowledged this was a problem, pointing out that many food banks were having to put together “no cook” parcels for households without access to kitchen facilities.


Members were told that there were funding schemes where families could be supported to get white goods for their kitchens.


Councillor Sue Duffy, executive for Children and Families, described the strategy as “brilliant work” that organisations throughout the District could take on board.


This included Bradford Council, with Cllr Duffy pointing out that the breakfast available to members before the morning meeting began didn’t include a healthy option.


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