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Public perceptions of UK foodbanks

Posted by Bethany Farr Team Coordinator at Oxfam

10th Dec 2015

Food poverty perceptions in the UK

Last year, more than a million people in the UK had to rely on foodbanks to help feed themselves and their families. Between August and September Oxfam commissioned Research Now to survey 1,890 people across Great Britain to find out the British public's view of food insecurity and foodbanks. Bethany Farr, Team Coordinator for our UK Policy, Programmes and Campaigns Team, reflects on the key findings.

The key objectives of this study were to better understand public opinions around food poverty in the UK. Specifically, we wanted to understand attitudes to food banks and their potential institutionalisation. We also wanted to know if people recognise food banks as a key issue and if they believe policy makers need to help reduce food bank use.

Key findings

Out of the 1,890 people surveyed:

  • 74% think it is 'important' or 'extremely important' that the government tackles within the next 12 months, the number of people finding it difficult to afford to eat in the UK. 
  • 64% said they were 'concerned' or 'extremely concerned' about food bank usage.
  • 73% thought that there must be something fundamentally wrong with society if people had to use foodbanks in this country.
Public perceptions of UK foodbanks

 Figure 1: Perceived number of people 'find it difficult to afford enough to eat'

Food poverty perceptions in the UK

Figure 2: Perceived change in food bank use in UK over last 5 years - % UK public

So the research found a large portion of the population is concerned about the use of food banks. The public believe that food insecurity is an issue which needs to be addressed in the next 12 months. For many, it ranks alongside other issues deemed to be of high importance, such as unemployment and affordable housing; issues that often receive considerably more coverage in the media. we need to put forward solutions that people they can get on board with

What this tells us is that we don't need to convince people that food insecurity exists or that their neighbours might be going hungry. Instead, we need to put forward solutions that people they can get on board with, as well as demonstrating that it is possible to make change happen.

The big challenge is ensuring that emergency food support, through means such as foodbanks, continues to be seen by the public as a consequence of food poverty, rather than a solution. This means that Oxfam and others will continue to press policymakers to deliver long-term, sustainable solutions to food poverty that ensure no one has to rely on food handouts.

Read more

Read more about Oxfam's work in food poverty in the UK 

Read more blogs on poverty in the UK 

Blog post written by Bethany Farr

Team Coordinator at Oxfam

More by Bethany Farr