This research project aims to explore the extent to which food bank nutritional practices intersect with household dietary practices in the South of England. Food security in the United Kingdom has become a public health emergency. This has led to an increase in the use and demand of emergency food aid, commonly in form of food banks. Currently over 2,000 food banks are estimated to operate in an official capacity in the UK. However, the level of assistance that food banks can provide is restricted especially with regards to the quantity and quality of food provided.
Although emerging, little is known on the use of food banks at a household level and the extent to which food banks consider dietary needs and preferences. Those who use food banks have limited choice as the food available is pre-determined by donations, which has the potential to increase their nutritional vulnerability.
Using a mixed-method qualitative research design, this project will employ a Critical Discourse Analysis to determine the role of food banks in relation to food poverty and hunger since 2013 by critically analysing government and third-sector policy documents. Concurrently, an ethnographic study of food banks in Brent and Portsmouth will be conducted consisting of semi-structured and repeat in-depth interviews. Up to 50 food bank volunteers and households and the method of photo elicitation will be employed to visually capture how households use their food provisions within their socio-economic environments.
The findings from these two studies will then be integrated and synthesised using a theoretical framework to compare the differences between the policy framing on the role of food banks, the practice of food banks and the use of food parcels by households in meeting their food needs. The researcher will be working closely with food banks, who will potentially provide guidance and advice during the project with regards to data collection and analysis for example in the recruitment of participants.
To ensure that the interview guides are appropriate and relevant the researcher will consult with external food bank volunteers and users as well as experts on food security in the UK in one-to-one and focus group sessions. The outputs for this research project will involve a doctoral thesis, academic journal papers and presentations.
Cummins et al (2020) COVID-19: impact on the urban food retail system, diet and health inequalities in the UK (DOI: 10.31219/osf.io/dwv2e)