Living with Food Insecurity

This mapping study marks the Communities & Culture Network+’s first steps as part of a joint, interdisciplinary two-year project focusing on food banks, working with NEMODE and Sustainable Society Network+. We aim to use food banks as a focal point and case study for a range of connected issues that vary in scope from the very local to the global. NEMODE is interested in issues of volunteer economics and platforms; Sustainable Society Network+ is interested in sustainable infrastructures, food chains and environmental impact; Communities and Culture Network+ is interested in the relationship between food banks and the wider political, economic and social landscape. However, while we each have interests and concerns around this issue, it is the combined strength of an interdisciplinary approach which marks this project as unique. Read more

“First and foremost this study will engage with the lived experiences of food aid landscapes from the recipients’ perspectives. It will then contextualise these largely hidden, embodied experiences, in the wider national political, economic, cultural and food aid sector contexts within which they sit. This project fits within a wider programme of research being undertaken in the area by the team (including work for Defra) which involves a preliminary mapping and attempt at understanding the highly diverse and unsystematic nature of the national food aid landscape […] and research around household food security ‘coping’ strategies in austerity. Before this, the research team already had a reputation for research in this area and have been working together over the past several years on a number of projects relating to food poverty, food security and food aid. […]

  • Aim 1: To work with food assistance recipients to better understand their experience of the process of local food aid in Sheffield and ‘managing’ with food insecurity and to highlight the key issues which are raised for future research and policy making.
  • Aim 2: To locate food banks and other forms of charitable food assistance within their contemporary political, economic and cultural frameworks.

(Dowler and Lambie-Mumford, ‘Case for Support’)



Read the Final Report for this study:

Dowler, E. & Lambie-Mumford, H. 2014, ‘Food Aid: Living with Food Insecurity‘. Working Papers of the Communities & Culture Network+ Vol.3 (April 2014).


Key Participants:

Professor Elizabeth Dowler (Department of Sociology, University of Warwick) is one of the UK’s leading academic researchers on issues of poverty and food security. Her work on these issues has looked at the drivers of food poverty and the measures which have been promoted and implemented at local levels to address it (from the grassroots, local authority/health sector and government). Liz has experience of interviewing and engaging with householders to enable them to tell their stories, particularly in how they manage a precarious food budget and is a long-standing honorary member and elected Director/Trustee of the Food Ethics Council, an independent research and advocacy group; she was a member of their Food Justice Inquiry in 2010.  She does short international consultancies evaluating food policies; is a member of the DECC/Defra Social Science Expert Panel; and was a member of the Defra Council of Food Policy Advisers (2008-2010).  She chairs the Advisory Group for the Evaluation of Healthy Start and is a member of the Advisory Group for the University of Copenhagen’s national quantitative and qualitative household level research on Food in Turbulent Times, which examines the sustainability and affordability of healthy food for Danish populations in times of austerity.  With qualifications in public health nutrition and wide experience in food policy analysis and evaluation, and now located in a Social Science Faculty, Liz Dowler brings expertise in evaluation and review, interpretation of qualitative and quantitative data and critical analysis of policy practice, drawing on both science and social science traditions.

Hannah Lambie-Mumford brings to this project particular research expertise on food aid in the UK.  With on-going research relationships with the Trussell Trust and FareShare, Hannah has been studying the rise and contemporary prominence of emergency food assistance for several years. She is a nationally renowned expert in the field, with a number of publications that have shaped policy directions. Her 2011 research project looking at the Trussell Trust foodbank Network resulted in a research report (Lambie 2011) which has gain policy and media profile as well as the first peer reviewed article to be published on the Network (Lambie-Mumford 2013). Most recently Hannah was successful as a co-applicant (with Elizabeth Dowler) for the Defra-funded project ‘Household Food Security in the UK: A Review of Food Aid’ [SEG 1205].She led on the day to day running and implementation of this intensive programme of work (lasting 9 weeks) and is lead author of the forthcoming report.