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07 June 2018

King's leads on tackling food insecurity in the UK

Will Richard, Communications & Engagement Officer

Researchers convene the first-ever national conference on household food insecurity.

shopping trolley
shopping trolley

In April 2018 researchers from the School of Life Course Sciences convened the first-ever national conference on household food insecurity.

Over the past eight years, household food insecurity has emerged as a critical public and policy issue in the UK. The rising numbers of people turning to food banks and other community projects for help has sparked heated public debate. Recognition of the problem has, in part, been driven by statistics on the numbers of people using food banks provided by The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, but there is also growing awareness of experiences of food poverty not captured in this data. It is now reported that as many as eight million people do not have adequate access to food in the UK: approximately 12 per cent of the population.

In response to this persistent increase there has been growing demand for evidence-based answers to key questions such as what is driving the need for food banks, what are the experiences of people receiving food charity, and how do the managers of food banks describe need and manage their responses to it? The aim of the conference, therefore, was to take stock of the growing quantity of research focused on food and poverty in the UK and to evaluate how it can inform the development of policy and practice going forward.

Key to this is the launch of a new resource ENUF: Evidence and Network on UK Food insecurity, created by Dr Rachel Loopstra, Department of Nutritional Sciences, with grant funding from the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC). It highlights major trends, latest research and creates a network of like-minded people. Among those already involved are academics, Central and Local government, charities and the private sector. It is hoped that through collaboration and shared learning the network can begin to adress many of the as yet unanswered questions. 

Dr Loopstra, who also presented at the conference, said:

The conference was greatly enhanced by input from the number of stakeholders who attended and highlighted the breadth of research on food and poverty from across the UK. Significant gaps in our understanding were also identified. While a lot has been done to describe food bank use, there is a need for more research that informs policy and practice intervention. I hope that collaborative research across the new network will build capacity to begin to provide answers.

Dr Rachel Loopstra