Children’s experiences of food poverty in UK newspapers

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The dramatic rise in food banks has driven food poverty into Britain’s public consciousness. But our new article finds that the consequences for families with children rarely hit the headlines and hardly any attention has been given to children’s experiences of food poverty in the UK.

The paper in the Journal of Poverty and Social Justice contributes to scholarship concerned with media representations of poverty by exploring newspaper coverage of food poverty as experienced by UK children and families. Our content analysis of six contrasting print newspapers from 2006–15 finds that reporting of children’s and families’ food poverty begins in 2011, peaks in 2014 and is dominated by articles about foodbanks. Narrative analysis identifies differences as well as similarities in the ways the problem is constructed in papers with different political stances as well as notable absences in the coverage, including the broader dimensions of food poverty and the views of children themselves.

We suggest it is ironic that while children and families (lone parents and large families in particular) are bearing the brunt of the government’s austerity measures, with 3.9 million children living in poverty in the UK in 2014–15 (CPAG, 2016), the impact on children themselves is, by and large, being ignored by the media. As Tess Ridge (2002) has shown, children are not passive beings; even in constrained circumstances they actively shape family food practices to help cope with the financial burdens that they and their families face. We therefore welcome the All Party Parliamentary Inquiry on the Future of Children’s Food that promises to raise public awareness of children’s experiences of food in the context of poverty.

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