Food insecurity is the political issue of our time, and in the UK, its prevailing symbol is the food bank. With the significant rise in the demand for food banks across the UK in recent years, academic interest has turned to this phenomenon to try to understand these spaces and the experiences of those accessing such services. Investigating the relationship people have with food when they live on a low income, this research project explores everyday experiences of food insecurity for individuals accessing food aid in Bristol.
Carrying out ethnographic research in two Trussell Trust foodbanks, a FoodCycle Community Kitchen, and a Real Economy Community Food Centre, I ask, what role does the food bank hold for people experiencing food insecurity? How do people exercise agency in this context? What impact does the service itself have on those individuals? How do these services position themselves with/against one another? By addressing these questions, I have sought to understand different approaches to tackling food insecurity; the position of the food bank within the individual lifeworlds of those using them; and at what stage people may use alternatives to food banks. Engaging with debates around cultural foods, surplus food waste, and food sovereignty, this project is based on material collected over 10 months using participant observation, semi-structured interviews and focus groups.