URGENT talks have been taking place to tackle the challenge of 'hidden hunger' in Dorset.

Members from across Dorset’s integrated care system and the voluntary sector came together to discuss the impact of food insecurity in the county and how they can make changes to improve the situation.

Research by the Food Foundation has estimated that the cost of eating a healthy, balanced diet is £42 per week per adult, so a family of four would expect to spend more than £100 per week to have a nutritious diet.

Public Health Dorset found that almost half – 46 per cent – of the Dorset population were not spending enough money on food per week to eat a healthy diet. This equates to more than 350,000 people in around 165,000 households, almost a third of which contain children. Public Health Dorset director Sam Crowe said: “Food insecurity is a real challenge facing Dorset.

"In the 21st century, it’s shocking that there is still such a high number of families who are struggling to afford to eat a healthy diet.

"The Dorset Hidden Hunger event was all about bringing together people from across the health and care system to start thinking about solutions and how we can build upon some of the excellent support that’s already available across our communities.”

Meanwhile, BCP Council leader Vikki Slade said: "These are families, grandparents, children, hard-working people, who are struggling, and this shouldn’t be happening in the 21st century.”

At the event, recordings from interviews with Dorset residents with experience of food insecurity were shown to share how the experience has impacted them and how they’ve been supported.

One of the residents interviewed said: “I separated from my husband five years ago and I’ve noticed in that time it’s become increasingly difficult with rising energy bills, the cost of living and food in particular. "My income hasn’t gone up in line with everything else. I would say I’m in a good job, which is frustrating because when you’ve got yourself to that place, you expect things to be a little easier.”

Some current support available for people experiencing food insecurity available across Dorset includes; food banks, community fridges, help with budgeting and cooking classes.