Children's health and food

Using machine learning to gain insights about food insecurity

We’ve partnered with food-sharing app OLIO and big data research centre DAMSL to gain a greater understanding of food insecurity in Lambeth and Southwark.  

Key partnership information

  • Partners: OLIO and DAMSL 
  • Funding amount: £40,110 
  • Duration: October 2022 – February 2023 
  • Programme: Children’s health and food 

What we’re doing together

We’ve partnered with food-sharing app OLIO and big data research centre DAMSL to gain a greater understanding of food insecurity – not having access to enough, nutritious food – in Lambeth and Southwark.  

Expanding on a pilot study previously run in the London Borough of Havering, this project will extend across London, using a combination of surveys and machine learning to build a detailed picture of food insecurity across the city. It will result in an interactive tool that can be shared with a range of partners, including the GLA, councils, and non-profit organisations.  

The tool will provide a richer evidence base for planning, funding and decision making to support an increase in the availability and affordability of nutritious food for families on low incomes.  

Aims of the partnership

Over the course of this project, we aim to:  

  • Design and undertake a survey of 3,000 OLIO users to estimate the scale of food insecurity across London’s 417 neighbourhoods.  
  • Build a picture of food insecurity across London by combining the survey results with OLIO app data on food availability and redistribution, and publicly available data on demographics and food outlets.  
  • Create an interactive map allowing users to visualise food insecurity across London. 
  • Share the tool with a range of partners to provide them with better evidence to tackle gaps in availability and affordability of nutritious food across the city. 

Connection to our strategy

All children should be able to access healthy food, no matter where they live. We know that families want affordable, convenient healthy food, but are instead flooded with cheap, unhealthy options.  

At a time when rising cost of living is putting even more pressure on households, this project will help identify opportunities to improve the places where families on low incomes are buying food in Lambeth and Southwark.  

More about OLIO

As the UK’s largest free sharing app (5,540,305 users; 43,446,142 portions of food shared), OLIO has access to rich behavioural data on household and business food waste across a diverse demographic, and a large user base of survey respondents. Their app also has well-developed survey functionality, which they use regularly for research and for user experience testing.  

More about DAMSL

DAMSL is made up of highly published academics working in data science, with extensive expertise in analysing behavioural and retailer data in the area of food insecurity. This gives an opportunity to learn about new analytical techniques, and how/when to use them.

OLIO and DAMSL are proud to join forces with Impact on Urban Health to create a longitudinal open database with unique insights into food insecurity in London. Our goal is to help the public sector and third sector identify food-insecure neighbourhoods, to better target resources and offer greater support to communities that needed it most.