One in three people with diabetes in Wales struggling to access food in pandemic

New research from Diabetes UK has revealed that 32% of people with diabetes have experienced food insecurity since the COVID-19 lockdown came into force in the country. Thousands continue to experience food insecurity in the UK, specifically undereating, skipping meals, of being unable to follow a balanced diet.

Diabetes UK Cymru is campaigning for people across Wales to get access to the food they need.

Terri Harris


For Terri Harris, a retired teacher from Pontypool, the coronavirus pandemic left her feeling her life had been turned completely upside down, and worried about food supplies. She said: “As someone over 70 with type 1 diabetes I knew I would have to shield along with my husband. It was difficult coming to terms with the fact we would no longer be able to do the things we had previously taken for granted, like going to the shops”.

Terri used priority supermarket delivery slots, but found the system difficult to use and couldn’t get a delivery slot from many supermarkets, because she hadn’t received a shielding letter: “I tried to get in touch with my GP but was unable to speak to anybody.  I was left to struggle. Eventually, I got a slot with my usual supermarket, but I found that I had to use the same slot every week or it would show as unavailable. When I did manage to get a delivery, I found that there were many substitutions with foods that were completely unsuitable for me as a diabetic. Fresh fruit and vegetables being particularly hard to find. I was unable to order anything from other supermarkets I hadn’t used before the coronavirus.”

“Sadly, I know I am not alone. I’ve spoken to many other people with diabetes who have also had awful problems accessing the food they need. Too many people have had to rely on family or friends which is not a sustainable way of accessing foods,” added Terri.

Terri still has concerns about going to supermarkets and shops, because of lack of social distancing, lack of in-store support and the fact that many people don’t wear masks or face coverings.

She said: “Life isn’t going back to normal for us, and like so many others, now we need the Government to fight our corner too. Those in power must learn the lessons of this crisis to make sure people get the food they need before we go into winter and a possible second wave. Not everyone can get to the shops, and supermarket deliveries are still very difficult to come by.”


Fighting for food security and protections for people living with diabetes


Diabetes UK Cymu are calling on Welsh Government to ensure that people who are at higher risk if they catch coronavirus like Terri Harris have access to the food they need.  On 16th August, shielding was paused in Wales. This means that if a vulnerable person can’t get a supermarket delivery, they’ll be forced to go out – or go without.  This shouldn’t be a choice anyone has to make. 

Diabetes UK Cymru is supporting the petition “Don’t let people who are vulnerable go hungry”. We are asking the Welsh Government to:

  • Ensure every local council offers support to provide priority delivery services to people who are vulnerable to coronavirus
  • Provide clear guidance and support to councils and supermarkets to make sure everyone can get the food they need, both in and out of store
  • Communicate what support is available to people who are vulnerable to coronavirus or food insecurity
  • Regularly review what support is available, to make sure nobody goes hungry in the event of a second wave or local lockdown.

During the lockdown, we worked with partners at the All Wales Diabetes Patient Reference Group and created a list for people with diabetes to provide for others shopping for them. To receive this list please email us: diabetes@wales.org.uk

We are also supporting the Distance Aware campaign, which started in Wales to enable individuals and organisations to politely prompt ongoing distancing and respect of individual social space. This aims to make it easier for those going food shopping and resuming other activities, as restrictions ease.

The Welsh Government weekly food box deliveries for extremely vulnerable people, which have been coordinated by local authorities, ended on 16th August, but priority slots for online supermarket shopping will remain in place. Updated Information from the Welsh Government is available here.

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