Experiences of Food Poverty in Brighton and Hove by Samuel Lindskog
This research project was undertaken to understand the experience of being in food poverty in Brighton and Hove. Participants were recruited through two services supporting individuals in food poverty and by the use of research posters. Data was collected in seven unstructured interviews and analysed using grounded theory techniques.
The research finds that the experience of food poverty is pervasive, complex and affective: participants displayed a range of feelings and employed several emotional coping techniques. While some of these experiences were unique to the city, many of them correlated with earlier findings on food poverty in industrialised countries.
Food poverty is the experience of not being able to acquire and eat a sufficient amount and good enough quality of food and entails a loss of self-respect, causes ill-health and has implications for social relations. This qualitative research has captured some of the complexity and pervasive nature of that lived experience, for people in Brighton and Hove.
The analysis of this study locates the cause of food poverty in structural factors “outside the individual’s ability to manipulate information and money” (Dowler 1998:63), such as rising cost of living, diminishing wages and a welfare system that has failed to support participants through times of extreme vulnerability. Individual factors such as budgeting or cooking skills are less significant contributing factors, made clear by the demographic bias of the social groups affected. In addition to socially and economically disadvantaged groups, the diminishing margin between income and expenses has meant that new groups, such as working families, are increasingly experiencing food poverty.
The rates that reflect this trend are growing both nationally and locally. Despite this, there is no British research examining the qualitative experience of being food insecure. This project aims to begin bridging that gap in the literature by “[improving] the understanding of food poverty in the city” (BHFP 2012a:11), in particular the affective experience of food poverty. An understanding of the feelings and emotional coping techniques will enable us to better support those experiencing and using them.
The research originally posed to create this understanding were:
- What are people’s experiences of being food poor in Brighton and Hove?
- How do food poor envision the solution to their poverty?
Data was gathered for the second research question focusing on solutions, but has been excluded in favour of a more in-depth analysis of the rich data collected on affective experiences. A discussion of solutions will be published in collaboration the Brighton and Hove Food Partnership after further consultation with participants. Food poverty affects every area of one’s life, from physical health to your sense of dignity. This report hopes to capture some of those diverse experiences in the city.