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Denise Ndlovu

PhD student

Children, young people & families programme, Places & communities programme, Health inequalities theme, Efficient and equitable health systems

London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM)

Research Interests

Public health nutrition, inequalities, promotion of equity

Find out more about Denise's research

Denise's Q&A

  • What has been your career journey so far?

    I am an AfN Registered Associate Nutritionist and I am currently working towards becoming an AfN Registered Public Health Nutritionist. I have a BSc (Hons) in Human Nutrition at London Metropolitan University and MSc in Nutrition for Global Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine. I previously volunteered as a Child Weight Management Assistant before working as a Nutrition and Behaviour Change Lead at OneYou Ealing within West London NHS Trust. I also previously worked as a research assistant at the London School of Hygiene investigating the social and health impacts of Universal Credit on homelessness.

  • Why did you choose to do a PhD in public health research?

    I’m very much interested in public health especially as I am working towards obtaining registration as a public health nutritionist. What I like most about doing a PhD in pubic health research is that it is multi-disciplinary. My research project, although centred around food security and nutrition, also focuses on social policy, sociology, geography and history, which highlights how interlinked these disciplines can be.

  • What is your research focused on?

    My research project is focused on food banks specifically the extent to which food banks meet the dietary needs and preferences of households. This will be investigated using an exploratory qualitative mixed-method design. Specifically, I will critically analyse government and third-sector policy documents to establish how the role of food banks have been framed since 2013 using a Critical Discourse Analysis. Alongside this I will conduct semi-structured and repeat in-depth interviews remotely with up to fifty food bank volunteers and households. The adoption of photo-elicitation will provide a visual representation of how food provisions are used and the types of meals that can be made from these food parcels given the specific circumstances of households. I will also use a theoretical framework, based on three sociological theories, to synthesise the findings from these two studies to determine the differences between how food banks are represented in text, how they practice and how they are used at the household level.

  • Why is it important?

    Food insecurity and food poverty in high income countries is increasingly becoming a public health concern and in the United Kingdom, it has been framed as a public health emergency. With an estimated 8.4 million people reported to be food insecure in 2016, many households are financially vulnerable and experiencing challenges in accessing food, especially healthy food. Food banks have continued to increase in use and demand since 2013 however, they are at risk of becoming institutionalised in the UK. Given the evidence that households of low socioeconomic status are predisposed to poor dietary behaviours and practices, those who use food banks are at an increased nutritional vulnerability as their food choice and subsequently consumption is pre-determined by donations and the logistical capacity of food banks. Whilst we are aware that food banks are typically used as a last resort when existing coping strategies have been stretched, the extent to which food banks act as a coping strategy to meet household food needs is unknown especially taking when considering how households incorporate food provisions within their existing dietary practices. Hence, the need to explore and understand how households use food banks, in relation to their diet.

  • What do you like about being a part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research?

    What I like about being part of the NIHR School for Public Health Research is the community that it has especially amongst the students. There are multiple ways to engage with one another and it’s a very open space that allows you to grow as a researcher as you can reach out not only to other students but also the staff/academics within SPHR and the wider NIHR institution.

  • What skills have you learnt and/or are hoping to learn as part of your PhD?

    During the course of my PhD I have built upon my existing skills but also acquired a new set of skills especially with regards to my critical analytical skills and public/research engagement skills.

  • What do you hope to do after completing your PhD?

    I want to continue working within the field of public health nutrition and research. Specifically, I hope to work within the local government or within a non-governmental organisation to reduce inequalities and promote equity.


Cummins, S., Berger, N., Cornelsen, L., Eling, J., Er, V., Greener, R., Kalbus, A., Karapici, A., Law, C., Ndlovu D., & Yau, A. COVID-19: impact on the urban food retail system and dietary inequalities in the UK. Cities & Health 2020. DOI:

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