Research brief update: Understanding food poverty and the transitional behaviour of vulnerable individuals: Research brief update

Morven McEachern, Caroline Moraes, Andrea Gibbons, Lisa Scullion

Research output: Book/ReportOther report


Over fourteen million people are living in poverty (SMC, 2018), experiencing vulnerability on multiple dimensions. Statistics on UK community-based food aid are largely based on individuals who use the 1,200 emergency services provided by the Trussell Trust food banks. However, another 809 independent community-based food services operate independently (IFAN, 2018). The invisibility of independent community-based food aid providers and their clients are a challenge for policymakers and NGOs, which remains largely unaddressed. In response, this research provides a more nuanced understanding of consumers’ temporal experiences of austerity and food access exclusion. Further, while recognising the contested definition of ‘vulnerable’, the research also examines what additional types of support might be needed to facilitate liminal transitions for individuals experiencing food poverty. Through an interpretive lens, the research involved twenty-four in-depth interviews with clients of food aid providers in the city of Birmingham and the Greater Manchester area. Our research suggests nuanced, temporal experiences of austerity and food poverty, and flexibility in how vulnerable consumers navigate their period of liminality. We establish that prolonged liminality and the liminoid co-exist in food access exclusion, going against existing Trussell Trust discourses regarding food aid being a short-lived service. Further, liminal stigma emerges from the data, which is then counteracted by caring, non-judgemental food aid spaces, a sense of community, as well as reciprocity among those experiencing vulnerability and the volunteers who enable food aid provision. We propose social policy recommendations aligned with Scotland’s Right to Food approach, and operational guidance for community-based food aid providers.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages6
Publication statusUnpublished - 6 Feb 2020


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