Project PEDHSC24

Household Experiences of Food Poverty and Support Service Provision in Hertfordshire

A mixed-methods collaborative study to inform Hertfordshire County Council’s ‘Food Poverty Needs Assessment’. The aim was to assess the range of existing services and agencies supporting households experiencing food poverty across Hertfordshire.


‘One of the clearest and most immediate impacts of being in poverty is an inability to buy nutritious food’ and those with lower incomes are more likely to have poorer quality diets.¹ A ‘Food Poverty Needs Assessment’ was carried out by Hertfordshire County Council (HCC).² This research was undertaken by the University of Hertfordshire in collaboration with HCC to inform their ‘Needs Assessment’, with the aim to:

  1. Assess the range of existing services and agencies supporting households experiencing food poverty across Hertfordshire.
  2. Explore households’ experiences of food poverty and of accessing services for support.

A total of 23 Hertfordshire residents completed a household survey and five took part in an in-depth interview about accessing support services and affording/accessing enough food. Twenty-one support service providers completed an online survey and 15 took part in one of three focus groups.

Hertfordshire residents identified multiple factors that contributed to their experiences of food poverty, including physical and/or mental health issues, the high cost of housing, unemployment or furlough during the pandemic, low pay and/or insecure work, debt and Universal Credit. Residents were largely positive about their experiences of accessing support services. However, they often struggled to know what support was available to them or how to access this in the first instance.

Service providers suggested that the root cause of food poverty was poverty itself, caused by insufficient income. They said that local responses to food poverty should be multiagency and there were good examples of existing partnerships between organisations working together to support households. Service providers also recommended a need for strategic leadership, establishment of measurable outcomes and priority setting for food poverty work across Hertfordshire.

¹ Marmot, M., Allen, J., Boyce, T., Goldblatt, P., & Morrison, J. (2020). Health Equity in England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On. London, UK: Institute of Health Equity.

² Hertfordshire County Council. (2021). Food Poverty Needs Assessment 2021. Hertfordshire, UK: Hertfordshire County Council. Accessed from:

Project aims

The primary aim of this study was to assess the range of services and agencies operating across Hertfordshire that support individuals experiencing food poverty. The secondary aim was to explore Hertfordshire households’ experiences of accessing these support services and their experience of food poverty generally.

The main objectives were to:

  • Identify current support service provision for households experiencing food poverty in Hertfordshire and understand the perceived factors affecting the delivery of support services.
  • Explore households’ experience and identify the main barriers and facilitators of accessing support services across Hertfordshire.
  • Identify the main factors associated with food poverty risk, from the perspective of support services and households experiencing food poverty.
  • Make recommendations for the HCC ‘Food Poverty Needs Assessment, and local policy and practice, to reduce food poverty in Hertfordshire.

Recent activity

  • Hamilton, L. (2022, Mar 22). Place-based approaches to food poverty interventions: Informing the Hertfordshire food poverty needs assessment. [Invited talk]. Public Health Connect. University of Hertfordshire.
  • Thompson, C., & Hamilton L. (2022, Feb 3). What is a food poverty action plan? [Invited talk]. Cambridge County Council Food Poverty Alliance. Cambridge County Council and Sustain.
  • Hamilton, L., & Dickinson, A. (2021, Nov 15). Informing the Hertfordshire food poverty needs assessment: Findings and research process. [Invited talk]. PHEI Virtual Learning Event. Hertfordshire County Council.
  • Hamilton, L. (2021, July 21). Informing the Hertfordshire food poverty needs assessment. [Invited talk]. Herts Obesity Partnership. Hertfordshire County Council.

Who was involved

Principal Investigator: Prof. Wendy Wills (University of Hertfordshire)

Dr Laura Hamilton (University of Hertfordshire)

Dr Angela Dickinson (University of Hertfordshire)

Prof. Kathryn Almack (University of Hertfordshire)

Faith Eddlestone (Hertfordshire County Council)

Kirsten Lorrain-Smith (Hertfordshire County Council)

Next steps

Following on from this research, the aim is to assist Hertfordshire County Council in the implementation of the recommendations into local policy and practice. There is potential for a process/outcome evaluation.

Contact us

Dr Laura Hamilton, University of Hertfordshire,