No trip to the supermarket these days is complete without sight of large food bank containers and posters requesting donations of non-perishables to support the most vulnerable in our communities. For all its affluence, Oxford is also home to areas of great deprivation and food banks provide a lifeline to those with limited means and access to healthy, nutritional food.

The current pandemic has only exacerbated the issue of food poverty and demand on food banks UK-wide has never been greater. Managing their resources is vital to ensuring that food banks can meet that demand.

Professor Robin Evans (Robert Kay Fellow and Tutor in Statistics) and Dr Brieuc Lehmann (Junior Research Fellow in Statistics) have been working with colleagues in Social Policy and at Oxford City Council on predicting current demand for food banks, to help manage supplies. Their approach is to combine ward-level data on household composition, sector of employment and age with various predictions of loss of income or unemployment.  Robin says, “This information is then entered into a larger model to give a predicted number of people suffering from severe food insecurity and the consequent demand for food aid.

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He adds, “It is important that food banks understand what the demand might be for their resources and our work is helping to inform how they share those resources around the city and where extra support might be required.”  

It is hoped that this statistical modelling can be used in the future to help food banks manage their supplies.

Robin and Brieuc’s work is just one of the ways that College members are contributing to the challenges presented by COVID-19 - from clinicians on the front line to those seeking to understand the virus to students and staff who are helping in the local community. Read more via these links:

https://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/about-jesus-college/news/2020/may/college-member-taking-part-covid-19-vaccine-trial

https://www.jesus.ox.ac.uk/about-jesus-college/news/2020/may/collaboration-support-hot-meals-vulnerable