People seeking asylum in London face malnutrition, but there is scope for local action

12 March 2024: Sustain: People seeking asylum in London face malnutrition, but there is scope for local action

New report finds food insecurity and malnutrition are commonplace for people seeking asylum in London, and outlines key areas for local action.

New report, Food experiences of people seeking asylum in London: areas for local action, published today by Sustain, finds serious issues with food access for people seeking asylum in London. Key areas for local action are outlined, with recommendations of how councils can work with local actors to improve the situation.

Serious concerns were raised about food provided in catered accommodation, with evidence of poor food safety and lack of provision for people with medical conditions and allergies, in some cases leading to hospitalisation. Key issues were raised around unsafe infant feeding with parents lacking access to equipment to sterilise and store bottles, and food being inappropriate for children, who were losing significant amounts of weight. People want to have choice over what they eat and be able to cook their own meals. This was particularly important to mothers, who were deeply impacted by not being able to provide for their children, who were becoming malnourished.

Sustain worked with Jesuit Refugee Service UK and Life Seekers Aid to conduct the research between October 2023 and February 2024. This included focus groups with people with lived experience of the asylum system, interviews with local authorities, healthcare providers and voluntary and community sector organisations, and a workshop with local authorities.

Guardian: Home Office food provision leaving some asylum seekers malnourished – report

Research claims people have been hospitalised and children are ‘crying with hunger’ due to poor quality of food from contractors

Food provided to asylum seekers by Home Office contractors is of such poor quality that some people are ending up malnourished in hospital, a report has found.

The paper found that it was difficult or impossible to meet nutritional needs and some people ended up in hospital with nutrition-related conditions. Cases of malnutrition among children and diabetes among adults were identified.

Food poisoning, weight loss and diabetes were particular problems and there were reports of children “crying with hunger”. Some children lost significant amounts of weight and were not meeting their developmental milestones.

A lot of food ended up being binned and when fruit was provided, it was often already rotting and attracting flies. Hairs, mould and insects were found in food and sometimes raw or undercooked meat and chicken were served.

Food such as yoghurt was sometimes provided after it had passed its sell-by date. Particular concerns were raised about infant feeding and parents’ inability to access facilities to sterilise bottles.

Tuesday’s paper, titled Food Experiences of People Seeking Asylum in London: Areas for Local Action, surveyed people seeking asylum across London along with representatives from 18 London boroughs, health professionals, academics, voluntary sector organisations and the Greater London Authority. The research was carried out between October 2023 and February 2024.

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