Which Types of Family are at Risk of Food Poverty in the UK? A Relative Deprivation Approach

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Food banks have become a metonym for food poverty in breadline Britain, but data about their use underestimate the scale of the problem. Our new article in the journal Social Policy and Society adopts a new way of identifying how many and which types of families are at risk of food poverty in the UK over time. Working with the Minimum Income Standards team at the Centre for Social Policy, Loughborough University, we have applied a relative deprivation approach to examine which households with children are spending less than is needed for a socially acceptable diet that meets needs for health and social participation. The analysis finds that between 2005 and 2013 the proportion has increased for most family types and that lone parents and large families are most at risk of food poverty. The discussion considers findings in light of changing economic and policy contexts and the implications for policy responses of how food poverty is defined and measured. We argue that since food is fundamentally social, as well as material, measures to assess and address food poverty must include food’s role in fulfilling social needs.

Authors: Rebecca O’Connell, Charlie Owen, Matt Padley, Antonia Simon and Julia Brannen

Photograph: Mother of two, Juba, a participant in our qualitative research, shows ‘charity’ crisps  that are past their sell-by date.

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