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‘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

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