“If I eat good food, I feel good”

Food poverty is a growing national problem. Rising prices and household bills are leaving many struggling to make ends meet and not knowing from one day to the next where their next meal is coming from.

As well as that general uncertainty, one of the main challenges facing people in this position is not just sourcing food, but accessing a balanced, healthy and affordable diet.

A new film by the University of Plymouth and media company Fotonow CIC aims to shed light on the impact of this particular issue within the city of Plymouth.

It captures the voices of six individuals who are, for whatever reason, experiencing food insecurity and documents the dilemmas they are facing on a daily basis.

It also hears from some front line workers, in food banks and other emergency food providers, who are tirelessly supporting vulnerable people to provide them with food at times of crises.

The film – Food: On the Margins in Plymouth – builds on the research of Dr Clare Pettinger, who has spent many years examining how food poverty is impacting vulnerable people across the city.

She believes it highlights a number of key themes, including the impact of mental health issues, food affordability, the quality of food on offer, and the importance of all agencies working together to address the problem.

Dr Pettinger, Lecturer in Public Health Dietetics at the University, said:

“This film is about some of the many complexities of food poverty, and I hope it will provide an insight into the lived experience of those living on the margins of society. It has been an extraordinary process but the result is really powerful and shows the true characters involved, both among those accessing food aid and those working to provide it.

“Plymouth has more people in debt than the national average. But vulnerable people still have a right to healthy, affordable and good quality food and currently the food system is failing them. There is no doubt that eating better makes people feel better, and if we don’t include all of society in this debate we cannot create a solution to this critically important issue.”

Those featuring in the film are living with a range of issues including low wages, homelessness, mental health problems and the effects of previous addictions.

Speaking in the film, they recognise the effect a good diet has on both their physical and mental health – but say it is a real challenge to access such a diet on a limited budget, when snacks and junk food often cost significantly less than fresh.

For the charities and organisations, the film highlights the struggles they face around accessing the regular fresh food – rather than processed food – and how they are striving to work more closely with supermarkets to provide their clients with a healthy and balanced diet.

Fotonow filmmaker James Ellwood, who worked with Dr Pettinger to create the film, added:

"Shame and fear of prejudice mean that the issue of food poverty is particularly sensitive. At Fotonow we specialise in collaborating with communities and vulnerable groups, yet this project proved much more difficult than we anticipated. We therefore owe a debt of gratitude to the individuals who did come forward to take part. I hope that the film does justice to their stories and can raise awareness of the deep inequalities of our food system. Quality healthy food should be within reach for everyone in our society."

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