We are working with public space designers Gehl to understand how people experience the food environments in Camberwell and Peckham Rye; two neighbouring areas in Southwark with high levels of deprivation but differing rates of childhood obesity. As the first output of this project, the ‘Food Systems & Public Life’ report analyses data collected across the two wards, identifying how the built environment influences our eating behaviours and structural changes needed to spark healthier habits.
We know that the way public spaces are designed shape our buying and eating decisions. We also know that when it comes to childhood obesity, inequality matters. We’ve found that these two factors often interact in Lambeth and Southwark. For example, children living in less affluent areas are more likely to be obese than those living in more affluence places, and those living in neighbourhoods with lower income levels are more exposed to unhealthy food environments.
Camberwell and Peckham Rye are among the 10% most deprived areas in the UK, with similar demographics and levels of socio-economic inequality. Likewise, public life is mirrored across the wards, with the high street at the heart of most social activity. However, the areas differ both in the types of food available and in rates of childhood obesity. For example, in the mapped area in Camberwell Green, 35% of Year 6 are classified as overweight or obese compared to 23% in Peckham Rye.
Understanding the ‘foodscape’, or food experience, in these areas and how they differ is helping us learn how our surroundings impact our interaction with food. By gaining a clearer picture of how we’re being influenced, we can re-design public space and tailor future interventions in the boroughs where we work.
Gehl is an international, people-centred, urban design organisation that works to understand how public life and public space is used through in-depth observation and analysis. Gehl have worked in over 15 countries, on projects including pedestrianising New York's Time Square, and finding ways to promote social interaction through urban planning in São Paulo. TSIP, a social change agency made up of technical and community specialists, worked in collaboration with Gehl to tap into local researchers and ground the research in our local context.
Using quantitative and qualitative research, Gehl mapped the public spaces and food places across the two wards. Gehl worked in partnership with TSIP to find community researchers, local students and young people to lead onsite interviews with people between 6 and 16 years old at the busiest times of day.
These surveyors asked questions aimed at understanding how local people feel about the space around them, with a focus on how people spend their time, the reasons they choose to eat where they do and how they move in the public space.
Alongside this analysis, ‘foodscape’ surveys measured how shop fronts both on and off the high street signal information to people and how people interact with these food spaces as a result.
The report’s findings highlight that:
Based on these findings, Gehl has designed a Neighbourhood Foodscape Strategy with a series of tactical and strategic concepts. These recommendations are intended to improve the public life and public space in Camberwell and Peckham Rye, and to create healthier everyday environments for young people.
The key recommendations are: