The value of foodbanks goes beyond the food

Issued: Mon, 26 Mar 2018 09:30:00 BST

The research carried out by Professor Ade Kearns and researchers Mary Anne MacLeod and Louise Lawson was conducted under the University's GoWell programme and comprised two parts. 

A survey was conducted in 15 deprived communities around the UK and found that 1 in 25 households had used a foodbank in the past year. It also found that 3.8% of the households chose not to use a foodbank, through personal choice but also because they were not able to do so. For instance, many foodbanks require a referral. The investigation showed that foodbanks are a last resort for many people and cannot be relied on to tackle the the scale of food insecurity in our poorest and most desperate communities. 

The second part of the research involved follow-up, in-depth interviews with foodbank users. the echoed the survey findings that foodbank usage is highest among single people and found that many of those had no family or friends to go to for support. This demonstrated the connection between foodbank use and social isolation. Users appreciated the food but they also valued the social contact and support offered by foodbank staff and volunteers. Many of those interviewed became regular users for that reason as much as for the food. 

The foodbank users interviewed were also very appreciative of how positively they were treated there. Something whcih was not reflected at other agencies they had to deal with, for example, at employment and benefit offices. This restored some of their lost dignity at having to use the foodbanks.

Professor Kearns said 'In debates about the future of foodbanks, it is important to recognise their value to users beyond the food itself, so that the ability to offer contact and support to often isolated individuals with complex needs is extended rather than reduced as food aid is reformed'.

The survey results are published as ‘Understanding the prevalence and drivers of foodbank use: evidence from deprived communities in Glasgow’, in the journal Social Policy & Society

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