Skip to main content Accessibility help
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-dzwm5 Total loading time: 0.362 Render date: 2023-02-01T22:26:31.983Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

‘Every Town Should Have One’: Emergency Food Banking in the UK

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  22 October 2012

Department of Geography, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2TN email:


This article charts the rise of one of the UK's most high profile forms of food banks: the Trussell Trust Foodbank franchise. Employing empirical data it seeks to embed the phenomenon of the growth of Foodbanks within a social policy research context. In the first instance, the role of recent and on-going shifts in the social policy context are examined, notably the importance of welfare diversification under previous Labour governments (1997–2010) and the current public spending cuts, welfare restructuring and Big Society rhetoric of the Conservative−Liberal Democrat Coalition government. The paper goes on to explore the nature of Foodbanks as emergency initiatives, providing relief and alleviation for the ‘symptoms’ of food insecurity and poverty. Data are presented which demonstrate some of the ways in which the Foodbank model and those who run the projects navigate the tension between addressing symptoms rather than ‘root causes’ of poverty and food insecurity. In the face of the simultaneous growth in emergency food initiatives and significant upheavals in social policy and welfare provision, the article culminates with an argument for social policy research and practice to harness and prioritise the human rights-based approach to food experiences.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)


Cabinet Office (2008), Food Matters, London: Cabinet Office.Google Scholar
Cabinet Office (2010), Building the Big Society, [accessed 9 November 2010].Google Scholar
CESCR (1999), General Comment 12: The Right to Adequate Food (Article 11), [accessed 21 June 2012].Google Scholar
Conservative Party (no date), Big Society, Not Big Government, London: Conservative Party.Google Scholar
Daponte, B. O. and Bade, S. (2006), ‘How the private food assistance network evolved: interactions between public and private responses to hunger’, Non-profit and Voluntary Sector Quarterly, 35: 4, 668–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Defra (2006), Food Security and the UK: An Evidence and Analysis Paper, London: Defra.Google Scholar
Defra (2010a), UK Food Security Assessment: Detailed Analysis, London: Defra.Google Scholar
Defra (2010b), Food 2030, London: Defra.Google Scholar
De Schutter, O. (2012), ‘Special rapporteur on the right to food’, visit to Canada from 6 to 16 May 2012, [accessed 21 June 2012].Google Scholar
Dowler, E., Kneafsey, M., Lambie, H., Inman, A. and Collier, R. (2011), ‘Thinking about “food security”: engaging with UK consumers’, Critical Public Health, 21: 403–16.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dowler, E. and O'Connor, D. (2012), ‘Rights-based approaches to addressing food poverty and food insecurity in Ireland and the UK’, Social Science and Medicine, 74: 4451.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Dowler, E. and Turner, S., with Dobson, B. (2001), Poverty Bites: Food, Health and Poor Families, London: CPAG.Google Scholar
Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) (2003), Trade Reforms and Food Security: Conceptualising the Linkages, Rome: FAO, [accessed April 2010].Google Scholar
Hawkes, C. and Webster, J. (2000), Too Much and Too Little? Debates on Surplus Food Redistribution, London: Sustain.Google Scholar
Kisby, B. (2010), ‘The Big Society: power to the people?’, The Political Quarterly, 81: 4, 484–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Kneafsey, M., Dowler, E., Lambie-Mumford, H., Inman, A. and Collier, R. (2012), ‘Consumers and food security: uncertain or empowered?’, Journal of Rural Studies, [accessed 13 July 2012].CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Lambie, H. (2011), The Trussell Trust Foodbank Network: Exploring the Growth of Foodbanks across the UK, Report to the Trussell Trust Foodbank Network, Coventry: Coventry University.Google Scholar
Mechlem, K. (2004), ‘Food security and the right to food in the discourse of the United Nations’, European Law Journal, 10: 5, 631–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Poppendieck, J. (1998), Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement, New York: Penguin.Google Scholar
Riches, G. (1997), ‘Hunger, food security and welfare policies: issues and debates in first world societies’, Proceedings of the Nutrition Society, 56: 6374.CrossRefGoogle ScholarPubMed
Riches, G. (1999), ‘Advancing the human right to food in Canada: social policy and the politics of hunger, welfare, and food security’, Agriculture and Human Values, 16: 203–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Riches, G. (2002), ‘Food banks and food security: welfare reform, human rights and social policy − lessons from Canada’, Social Policy and Administration, 36: 6, 648–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Riches, G. (2011), ‘Thinking and acting outside the charitable food box: hunger and the right to food in rich societies’, Development in Practice, 21: 4–5, 768–75.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Smith, M. J. (2010), ‘From big government to big society: changing the state—society balance’, Parliamentary Affairs, 63: 4, 818–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Tarasuk, V. (2001), ‘A critical examination of community-based responses to household food insecurity in Canada’, Health Education and Behaviour, 28: 4, 487–99.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Taylor-Gooby, P. and Stoker, G. (2011), ‘The coalition programme: a new vision for Britain or politics as usual?’, The Political Quarterly, 82: 1, 415.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
Trussell Trust (2012), ‘UK Foodbanks double numbers fed in one year’, press release 26 April 2012.Google Scholar
Trussell Trust (2004), Foodbank Operating Manual (18 January 2011), Salisbury: Trussell Trust.Google Scholar
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the or variations. ‘’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

‘Every Town Should Have One’: Emergency Food Banking in the UK
Available formats

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

‘Every Town Should Have One’: Emergency Food Banking in the UK
Available formats

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

‘Every Town Should Have One’: Emergency Food Banking in the UK
Available formats

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *