Food Vulnerability Directorate
As over two million people were asked by Government to shield and panic buying took hold, Defra set up the Food Vulnerability Directorate to ensure food support for the most vulnerable in society. Our aims were to support the food needs of varied groups of vulnerable people: those who were shielding, those who struggled to access food for any reason (e.g. the elderly, disabled people) and people who were economically vulnerable as a result of COVID-19.
At pace, the pop-up directorate set up the ground-breaking Food and Essential Supplies for the Vulnerable Ministerial Task Force to oversee the work. The directorate produced analysis, which demonstrated that a sizeable group was able to afford food but unable to access it, and a larger group was unable to afford food because of COVID-19. The team worked collaboratively across government to build relationships, co-design interventions and ensure support.
An unprecedented food packages scheme delivered nearly 5 million food parcels to shielding people across England. The directorate engaged supermarkets to prioritise shielding people for delivery slots, sharing data to support access. Simultaneously, the team worked in partnership with local authorities (LAs) and supermarkets to build a ‘referral service’, a bespoke digital platform and triage system to enable LAs and selected charities to directly refer vulnerable individuals for access to prioritised slots with two supermarkets.
The team secured £16m from the DCMS Charity Fund to support economically vulnerable people through providing food to over 5000 frontline charities. The team produced analysis on geographical distribution and ethnic minority applicant outcomes from grant applications, which is producing recommendations for commercial practice. Even with this uplift, the evidence suggested that children, ethnic minority, and young people were disproportionately affected. The team led a successful bid to HMT, securing £63m, to be administered through LAs, aimed at hundreds of thousands of people experiencing acute hunger.