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UK news media portrayal of mothers living in food insecurity since the 2008 global financial crisis: a mixed-methods news media analysis

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Shelina Visram, Zoe Bell, Dr Nicola HeslehurstORCiD


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Copyright © 2022 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved. BACKGROUND: An estimated 5 million people in the UK are food insecure; with women and children being the most affected. Food insecurity is particularly concerning for pregnant women, lactating mothers, and young children, who have high nutrient requirements. News media can shape public perceptions, is powerful at framing health issues, and in creating public demand and support for health policy. We aimed to explore how UK newspapers portrayed food insecure pregnant women or mothers of children aged up to 1001 days (hereon called mothers). METHODS: NexisUni was searched for newspaper articles published between Jan 1, 2008, and Dec 1, 2021, with content on food insecurity among mothers. Articles were screened against inclusion criteria. Descriptive quantitative analysis explored patterns in reporting over time, voices present in articles, and overall framing of mothers as deserving or undeserving of support. Thematic analysis of the content explored patterns in the portrayal of food insecure mothers. FINDINGS: 254 articles were included. Reporting increased over the selected period, with peaks in 2020-21 attributed to Marcus Rashford's child poverty campaign. Articles mainly contained sympathetic voices, and occasionally the voices of mothers themselves. The narrative portrayed food insecure mothers as being deserving of support. The UK Government was portrayed as the main driver of food insecurity, linked with health and economic drivers. Mothers and children suffered the health consequences of food insecurity, and required access to informal and formal food aid strategies. INTERPRETATION: Mothers were portrayed as victims of food insecurity, providing the public with an empathetic and sympathetic perspective that could promote public support for intervention. The UK Government was generally framed as a wrongdoer, whereas food aid providers were depicted as key helpers. Thus, newspapers could be used to call for government action, advocating for women's right to food, and calling attention to social determinants of health underlying food insecurity. The rigorous searches and mixed-methods analysis are strengths of this study. A limitation is the restricted focus on newspaper media. Future research should explore other media.None.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Wigman I, Visram S, Bell Z, Heslehurst N

Publication type: Conference Proceedings (inc. Abstract)

Publication status: Published

Conference Name: Public Health Science 2021

Year of Conference: 2022

Pages: S46-S46

Online publication date: 24/11/2022

Acceptance date: 02/04/2018

ISSN: 1474-547X

Publisher: The Lancet Publishing Group


DOI: 10.1016/S0140-6736(22)02256-5

PubMed id: 36426463

Series Title: The Lancet