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Barking and Dagenham is the “worst” for food deserts

PUBLISHED: 14:34 03 April 2013 | UPDATED: 14:34 03 April 2013

More ‘food deserts’ are found in the borough than anywhere else across London, a social enterprise claims.

Eric Samuel MBE, CEO of Community Food Enterprise, says Barking and Dagenham is rife with areas where affordable healthy food is scarce or difficult to access.

He said: “Barking and Dagenham is by far the worst. If you look around the Thames View Estate in Barking you will see there are no shops and yet there are so many people living there.

“If someone has to travel far they are limited to what they can bring home, which increases food poverty. Without a balanced, healthy diet it leads to malnutrition.”

Community Food Enterprises runs a mobile food store that visits the Barking estate once a week giving residents access to healthy foods at affordable prices.

It has worked in the borough since 2006 visiting all the children’s centre, but cuts in funding have reduced its service in the last year.

The organisation is one of many that contributed to a new report released last week which warns thousands of Londoners are at risk of food poverty.

Increasing numbers of low-paid and unemployed people are affected in the capital, as well as pensioners and schoolchildren, it says.

A survey found that more than 95 per cent of teachers reported some children arriving at school hungry and two thirds had given pupils food at their own expense.

The report by the London Assembly health and environment committee calls for a food poverty to be prioritised to achieve what it calls a ‘zero hunger city’.

Its recommendations include provision of free breakfast clubs in schools, reinventing community meals and for councils to lead a food poverty action plan.

Mr Samuel fears the situation here could easily escalate.

“It is going to get worse with government funding getting cut back,” he said.

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