Cambridge City Foodbank

The Immense and Long-lasting Impact of Food Insecurity on Mental Health

Poor mental health in the UK appears to be rising, and we know that people on lower incomes are more likely to be in contact with mental health services. In Cambridge, the cost-of-living crisis means we are seeing record numbers of people to turn to Cambridge City Foodbank for emergency food support, of which many may be suffering with anxiety, depression and poor overall health.

It is widely known that GPs are under pressure and that we have limited time to spend with our patients. For this reason, during appointments, we are often only seeing the tip of the iceberg – both of patients’ health issues, and of the greater need that exists within our communities. GPs are only able to spend around 10 minutes with each patient, which means that often, we are only able to address the immediate issue that a patient is facing instead of exploring the reasons that may have contributed towards the development of these issues.

It is for these reasons that, for two days a week, I have chosen to work as Health Inequalities Consultant on behalf of Cambridge City Foodbank. I believe that this is best way for me to have a positive impact on the wider health of the people of Cambridge.

Not having access to food, and in particular nutritious food, has a significantly detrimental impact on a person’s health. If a person has little money to spend on food, they are often left with no choice but to eat cheaper, often less nutritious food. People with poorer diets are then more likely to develop chronic health conditions. According to the Office for National Statistics, across the UK, the healthy life expectancy for those living in the most deprived areas is 19 years lower for women and 18 years lower for men than for those living in the least deprived areas; food insecurity is likely to be contributing factor to this.

Food insecurity specifically has also been linked to heightened anxiety, stress, and other mental health issues. At the Foodbank Welcome Centres, we serve people who are often facing crisis and find themselves in an incredibly stressful situation. The Foodbank exists to meet the needs of those people and, through our emergency food provision, we aim to remove some of the stress associated with worrying where their next meal is going to come from. One challenge is that if a person is poorly nourished and also experiencing stress, anxiety and/or depression, they can often be in a very difficult position mentally to seek out ways to improve their situation. This can create a vicious cycle of food insecurity leading to poor health, which, in turn, leads to deeper food insecurity and even poorer health.

So, what can be done to improve the health of those facing food insecurity? The first thing is greater access to nutritious food. At the Foodbank, we are striving to achieve this by supporting our visitors to improve their financial situations through our partnership with Cambridge and District Citizens Advice and therefore to reduce the food insecurity they face. We are also providing access to affordable food for people living with chronic food insecurity through our social supermarkets.

However, while the Foodbank will always work hard to support greater numbers of people move out of poverty, ultimately, wider system change is needed. Systemic issues are holding people in poverty, which we know is having a negative impact on peoples’ mental health. I do hope that all governments, now and in future, will consider addressing these issues before they deepen further.  

Written by Dr Liam Loftus, Health Inequalities Consultant, Cambridge City Foodbank. To learn more about Cambridge City Foodbank, visit: www.cambridgecity.foodbank.org.uk

Find More News Articles Here


Local View articles by category

Most Popular

Get The Latest Updates

Subscribe To Our Newsletter

More articles

Related Posts