Exploring the challenges and inequalities of the new food aid system: a seminar discussion on working with and within foodbanks

Project: Research

Project Details


Wellcome Trust Society and Ethics Meeting Grant

Layman's description

The escalating problem of UK food poverty is a significant contributing factor to health inequalities and has been described as a ‘public health emergency’ (1). Poverty forces people into dangerously poor diets that have been linked to a variety of health problems including malnutrition, obesity, and diabetes (2,3,4). The stark combination of falling incomes and rising living costs has resulted in ever more of those already living on restricted incomes turning to charities for food, with access to these services embedded in primary care via a referral system. That is, vouchers for food aid from food banks can be obtained from frontline care professionals. Those tasked with referring to food aid providers are required to engage with this process and act as food aid gatekeepers for their communities. The localised and sometimes chaotic ways in which potential clients, referring healthcare professionals and foodbanks intersect is poorly understood, which has health implications for the vulnerable populations that have come to rely on this system.

The seminar aimed to address this challenging set of relationships by exploring the perspectives of various stakeholders in the emerging food aid system and facilitating discussion with a social science and public health audience. The overall goal of the event was to help develop a public health research agenda around the food aid system by bringing together interested parties with a view to forming new networks and potential collaborations.

Key findings

Four key areas of critical focus emerged:

 Food aid as a growing and changing sector
 New responsibilities for healthcare professionals
 The need for a consistent and robust measure of food poverty
 Directions for further research
Effective start/end date1/02/1531/08/15


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