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'I don't really like this, but it's all there is'. Welfare Reform, Low-Income and Food Insecurity

Lookup NU author(s): Joel Halligan, Professor Suzanne Moffatt, Professor Clare BambraORCiD, Dr Wendy Wrieden


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The UK government's programme of 'welfare reform' has, amongst other things, led to cuts to the real-terms incomesof many benefit claimants. At the same time, the use of food aid in the UK has grown significantly which, it has beenargued, is indicative of a crisis of food insecurity occurring amongst those on low incomes.Given the links between food and health, it is important to understand how food insecurity is negotiated and theprocesses by which it may shape people's food choices and influence diet-related inequalities in health. This researchaims to explore this, in the context of the ongoing impacts of welfare reform.Working-age people, affected by one or more changes to benefits, were recruited from a disadvantaged, urban area inNortheast England. Semi-structured interviews were conducted with participants.Eighteen people (8 male, 10 female) aged between 22 and 61 years were interviewed. Participants perceived theirfood choices to be strongly shaped by their current financial circumstances, and that income losses as a result ofwelfare cuts have had adverse impacts on diet. Participants described complex strategies for obtaining food. Thesestrategies – influenced by food skills, planning skills, and physical access to food – were situated within socially andculturally embedded practices and norms. Participants talked about the monotony of their diet, and the prioritisation ofsatiety over taste or pleasure. Cost of food tended to be given primacy over nutritional value. Food crises, resulting inhaving to access food aid, occurred for some participants.The findings show that the processes linking welfare reform, low-income and food insecurity are complex. However,there are clear implications for the health and wellbeing of those impacted. Policy approaches to address inequalitiesin diet and diet-related disease need to consider how food insecurity shapes people's food choices.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Halligan J, Moffatt S, Bambra C, Wrieden W

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Fifth BSA Sociology of Food Study Group Conference

Year of Conference: 2017

Pages: 46-46

Acceptance date: 01/03/2017