NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde

Identifying and reaching people who may be experiencing food insecurity

John Casey works as a Health Improvement Practitioner for NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde and has a remit for the south of the city. His role includes managing a range of ‘Get Cooking, Get Shopping’ courses in the local area with a range of population groups. Courses are run by sessional chefs and focus on basic nutrition, food safety, cooking methods and recipes.

This case study focuses on John’s different methods for identifying and reaching people who may be struggling to have enough food, both before and during the courses.

John said, “I would say that most people who attend the courses are struggling to have enough food, irrespective of age.”

John uses a variety of methods to identify groups and individuals who may be struggling to have enough food to get through the week: discussions during the sessions; linking in with local organisations; and through a local survey.

During the cooking courses insight can be gleaned into whether people are struggling through the discussions on budgeting and costs which are an integral part of the cooking groups.  Participants are aware of what food budget is available each week for the course and then choose the recipes that will be made. This ensures they are both appealing to participants and within the budget.  Introducing budgeting in this way can allow someone to open up as to their own budget, allowing adaptations if necessary.

“We talk about cooking on a budget.  We allow £5 per head per week, basically saying you’ve got £5 for a meal of 4.  We introduce it as budgeting and that’s when people start to say ‘Och, I don’t have that, I’ve only got this amount a day’ and then we show them what they can do with that amount.  We wouldn’t put somebody on the spot but it is introduced through budgeting.”

Of course, personal budgets can be a sensitive issue and practitioners should be mindful of this.

“It’s about getting the right balance to be on a budget but not patronising peopl.”

Secondly, having links with ‘people on the ground’ provides a wide net of people and organisations referring people at risk of not having enough food into the cooking groups.

“A lot of the families we’ve identified have been through parent and toddler groups, sometimes church groups and community based organisations who’ve got some good links in the community. We also have a referral pathway through money matters, money advice service, Govan law centre, GP links workers and ‘positive inclusion for everyone’ who refer people to us. These referral pathways are something we built from the start.”

John also works to plan the activities of the project at a strategic level and a recent survey in the local area allowed him to identify a key population group who may be vulnerable to experiencing food insecurity.  As part of a wider project a ‘food issues questionnaire’ was undertaken targeting two population groups: families with pre-school children and families with school-age children. The survey was undertaken in one area, therefore capturing families in the same deprivation category.

“The difference between the two populations was stark – within preschool food poverty was at the top of the scale, amongst school age there was still an issue but less so. So, now we will be focusing more on the families with preschool children.”

Published: March 23, 2017