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The Need For Food in 2021

Newsletter #3 - 17/02/2021

Only a month and a half into 2021, we have found an increased need to spread good with The Ugly Fruit Group. The past few weeks have brought attention to the severity of food poverty in the UK, namely affecting school children (and their families) and university students. As one of the goals of The Ugly Fruit Group is to provide a means for the vulnerable to access food and contribute to food security, we wanted to recognise the challenges facing these two demographics and present our plans on how we will be addressing them.

Free School Meals

This image, posted on social media by a mother of school-age children, gained great traction on the internet and instigated a campaign for the quality of food parcels to be redesigned. While the scarce quantity of food is at first the most striking part of this picture, we decided to investigate whether the Chartwells food parcels could adequately support nutritional health for school children.

One requirement of the food parcels is that it ‘does not rely on parents having extra ingredients at home to prepare meals’, so this food allocation is designed to sustain a healthy lifestyle for one week. According to the NHS, the average 7-10 year old requires 1,760 calories per day. From our calculations, this food parcel provides 580 calories per day, less than one third of what is necessary. And from a nutritional perspective, the story gets even worse. The food provided amounts to less than 20% of the required protein in a healthy diet and around one fifth of the total amount of fruit and vegetables for one week.

These food parcels failed to provide care to those most vulnerable children who live in low-income households. In January 2020, this applied to 1.4 million children, with the greatest take-up coming from the North East (23.5%). Since the start of the pandemic, an extra 900,000 children (at least) have required free school meals and the government has already stated that it will not provide food parcels or vouchers over the upcoming February half term, which is sure to affect food insecurity even further.

International university students

Some of the people most affected by food poverty during the pandemic are international students at British universities. The payment of their costly tuition fees (upwards of £12,000) have not been reduced, their visas do not allow them to access government support and many have lost their part-time jobs, due to lockdowns, which were essential for paying their living costs. One food bank provides food solely for international students and serves 1700 of them a week, many of whom queue for hours around the block to access the food bank. In an interview conducted by Channel 4, students told of being financially unable to support themselves, going days without eating and being forced to ration food. One student says he lives off £10-£15 to survive the week.

As a student-run organisation, we want to reach out to those who are struggling with food poverty and signpost The Trussell Trust’s resource to find your closest food bank.

Our Impact

Since the start of January, The Ugly Fruit Group has donated around 50 meals worth of fruit and vegetables which have gone towards emergency food parcels for those who need it. We are excited to now be partnering with Hartlepool foodbank, providing some additional nutritional quality to supplement the essential food they provide to the local community. And our culinary team has also been working hard to stock our products at Scoop Durham on the Riverwalk. Here, our team have been getting creative with methods of preserving food and making freshly baked goodies, including a chilli and tomato jam!

We have also just launched a new cookbook with Embrace the Waste Durham: ‘A Student Guide to Zero Waste Cooking’! Our e-cookbook can be accessed via the website and our Facebook page. On it, you will find recipes for some our favourite dishes – from apple-cinnamon crisps to Indian spiced roast veg to vegan chilli. There’s something for everyone to try! It’s a great way to use up some ingredients in your fridge before they reach their best before date.

Be sure to check that out, as well as follow our Facebook and Instagram pages to keep updated on our activities and send an email to to subscribe to our newsletter! Please get in touch if you have any questions, suggestions or would like to get involved.

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