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Bristol's postcode lottery means life expectancies vary by 14 years across the city

Hartcliffe is one of the most deprived food deserts in the UK. Credit: ITV News

A lack of access to affordable, healthy food in Bristol has been cited as one of the key reasons for variations in life expectancy across the city.

Hartcliffe is the UK's second most deprived 'food desert' where life expectancy is 14 years lower than those living in Hotwells, just four miles away.

Kerry says she feels like Hartcliffe is being left behind. Credit: ITV News

Kerry is a mum of two - she lives in Hartcliffe and feels that it's been left behind richer parts of Bristol:

This time last year I took my last £6 out my savings account and I thought -next month, I'm gonna have to use a food bank.

It's 2019 we're one of the richest countries in the world and people are using food banks. You know - they're not using food banks in Clifton. It's areas like this. It's just shocking.

– Kerry Bailes

Living in Hartcliffe, Kerry's life expectancy is dramatically different to other parts of the city:

79
Average female life expectancy in Hartcliffe
Life expectancies vary dramatically between different parts of Bristol - they're lowest in Hartcliffe. Credit: ITV News
90
Average female life expectancy in Clifton
94
Average female life expectancy in Hotwells + Harbourside

It is a disgrace in a wealthy city in 2019 that we're having to rely on food banks and charities in order for people to have a basic right to food.

– Karin Smyth, MP for Bristol South

A key reason for this gap is the challenges residents face eating healthily.

Food 'deserts' vs. food 'swamps'

  • Food deserts have two or fewer supermarkets for every 15,000 people.
  • Average areas have between three and seven supermarkets for every 15,000 people.
  • The result is that residents find it hard to access fresh, healthy food - like fruit and vegetables - which has a knock-on impact on health.
  • Food deserts are often also food swamps - where the balance is skewed in favour of takeaways and fast food outlets.
Food deserts are areas with 2 or fewer supermarkets per 15,000 people. Credit: ITV News

Hartcliffe and Withywood are two of the country's most deprived food deserts - where a comparative lack of shops coincides with income deprivation.

47% of people in Hartcliffe don't have access to a car so travelling to the supermarkets is even harder.

How much difference does it really make?

We compared the prices of three household staples - milk, eggs, and lettuce - in a small, local convenience store in Hartcliffe and a big, budget supermarket elsewhere.

There was a clear price difference:

46p
Milk cost 46p less at a supermarket
30p
Lettuce cost 46p less at a supermarket
70p
Eggs cost 46p less at a supermarket

These price differences can make a real difference to health - Kerry spoke to us about how difficult she finds it to get her 5 a day and eat healthily:

It's almost impossible. It's doable if you've got access to fruit and veg. In Hartcliffe it's lots of sweets, chocolate, lots and lots of takeaways so you know - how are we meant to eat healthily when you've got the temptation of a takeaway?

There are lots of overweight people here - probably people don't want to admit that. I'm overweight.

– Kerry Bailes
HHEAG aims to grow fresh produce within BS13. Credit: ITV News

With many in Hartcliffe struggling to put fruit and vegetables on the menu, one charity is growing its own. Hartcliffe Health and Environment Group hosts an allotment and a community kitchen, allowing Hartcliffe residents to be involved in growing their own food and learning how to cook for health.

They're hoping it will help with the feeling people have that Hartcliffe is being left behind.

This is absolutely about inequality. It's not that people don't know how to cook, it's not that people don't know how to look after themselves, but the reality is here that people face a whole raft of challenges, affording reasonably priced food, so our focus is very much on trying to address all of those inequalities, bring the whole piece together and address what we see as the inequity in Bristol.

– Georgina Perry, Director of HHEAG
The project aims to inject education about healthy food into the community. Credit: ITV News

Would cutting costs in convenience stores solve the problem?

ITV News spoke to McColl's, who own Kerry's local convenience store. They pointed out that providing a local service sometimes comes at a higher cost.

The problem is not convenience stores existing, but the fact that access to food varies in different parts of the city.

Lawyers at the University of Bristol have started a campaign to make the Right to Food a part of British law. That would mean reframing access to food, making it the government's duty to provide food for its citizens.

In terms of food poverty, that would mean addressing the root causes of food poverty, as Tomaso Ferrando, advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on poverty, explained:

Lack of access to food depends on the fact that people don't have enough resources to spend in order to buy and have access to the food they would like, the food that is healthy.

Without addressing the issues of poverty, marginalisation and inequality, we can't really address the right to food.

– Tomaso Ferrando, Legal advisor, UN Special rapporteur on poverty

What's the solution?

Labour has endorsed the Right to Food and pledged that, if they come into power, this will be on their agenda.

ITV News contacted the Department of Health and Social Care to ask them to comment on the life expectancy discrepancy between Hartcliffe and other parts of Bristol.

They said that food poverty was dealt with by the Department for Work and Pensions. When ITV News contacted them, however, they did not provide any comment but suggested we contacted the Department of Health and Social Care.

Campaigners feel that food poverty is an issue which currently falls between different government departments, which led to calls at the start of the year for the appointment of a Minister for Hunger.