Families and Food Poverty in Austerity Europe: keynote at University of Copenhagen LOM conference

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On Wednesday 21st June 2017 Dr Rebecca O’Connell will give a keynote lecture at the Trends in Excellent and Interdisciplinary Lifestyle, Obesity and Metabolic Research Conference, University of Copenhagen. 

Food poverty in the Global North is an urgent moral and social concern. The global economic recession, rising food prices and so-called ‘austerity’ policies in some European countries have made food less affordable for households in recent years. In this context, food poverty and insecurity have risen across Europe, albeit there are differences between countries. This talk draws on a European Research Council funded mixed methods study of Families and Food in Hard Times (foodinhardtimes.org), that examines food practices in poor and low-income families in the UK, Portugal and Norway. It uses qualitative methods with parents and young people aged 11-15 years from 45 families in each of the three countries, as well as secondary analysis of national and international quantitative data, to examine how social contexts and social positionings mediate the extent and experience of food poverty.

This presentation examines the case of the UK, where food banks have proliferated and the number of food parcels handed out to families has risen dramatically. Following a discussion of the sociological conceptualisation of food poverty adopted in this study, the talk reports on secondary analysis undertaken to identify the types of families at risk of food poverty in the UK. To understand how families eat when they are spending much less than expected, and what this means for them, the qualitative research with 45 UK households is drawn upon. Three family cases are presented that exemplify some of the conditions under which food budgets are constrained, how families manage and how experiences and practices vary within as well as betweenhouseholds. The talk concludes by considering some of the practical and political consequences of how food poverty, and food itself, are conceptualised.

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