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. While the emotional toll of using a food bank has been explored (Hilje van der Horst et al., 2014; Purdam et al., 2016; Salonen, 2016), current studies have focused on the space of the food bank, rather than the lifeworlds of the individuals who access them. Consequently, the ways in which these emergency food aid provisions factor into the everyday lives of people living on a low income has not been contextualised. In response to this gap, this project will investigate the relationship people have with food when they live on a low income, specifically when they have either accessed, or considered accessing, a food bank. I ask – what role does the food bank hold for people experiencing food insecurity? What other means of support do people access outside of the food bank? What tactics do these individuals employ to feed their families and how is agency exercised? How do people negotiate using emergency food services alongside alternative support networks? In accessing emergency food aid services are people able to eat the food they like and/or are culturally significant to them?
Carrying out a multi-site ethnography within inner city Bristol, I will draw on creative methods of interviewing, using cooking to build an in-depth and emic account of individuals’ experiences. This project aims to manifest in a series of narratives, exploring everyday resistance to the dominant narrative of ‘scroungers’ and ‘shirkers’.