Experiencing food insecurity – perspectives from those relying on food charities


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Background/Aims: Previous stereotypes of people who are food insecure are no longer valid; food insecurity is experienced by diverse people in different ways. Food is multifaceted, while providing nutrients for the body, it also engenders social connection. This study explores food security from the perspective of people who experience food insecurity.
Methods: A qualitative approach using in-depth interviews with a researcher previously known to some participants, who were accessing food charities as their main source of food. Fourteen men and one woman were interviewed. Data was analysed independently by the researchers and key themes derived.
Results: Emerging themes included: dependency on charity as essential provider of food; enabling stability in living arrangements. Charity attendance was an essential part of social connectedness. Interestingly, the woman reported a sense vulnerability seeking food from a charity. All had intermittent periods being homeless. Alcohol, drugs, smoking, poor dentition, and mental illness contributed to homelessness and food insecurity. Food provision was variable in quality, yet plentiful, with a tendency towards being high in carbohydrate and fat. Weight gain is an issue. Paradoxically, participant knowledge of food and diet was exceptional, as was self-awareness of their health and how they lived.
Conclusions: This vulnerable group, demonstrate a dependency on food charity to support them remaining in stable, secure, living arrangements, having regular food and social connections. Interestingly, variable food quality in itself impacts on their already labile health. The food relief sector is challenged whereby provision creates dependency, and this requires further exploration.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)113-114
Number of pages2
JournalJournal of Nutrition and Intermediary Metabolism
Publication statusPublished - 2017


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