Centre for Food Policy Research
  1. PhD students
Food Policy

Tracy Pottinger

PhD work

Food Aid in the UK


  • BSc (Hons) Nursing with Education (University of Huddersfield)
  • MPH (University of Leeds)

The study

To address the UK's increasing problem of food poverty, several charities, mainly faith based,  have established food banks based on the North American model of non - profit organisations collecting, storing and distributing donated food free of charge either directly or through other agencies to those in need.  The Trussell Trust, one of Britain's largest food bank networks with over 100 outlets throughout the UK highlights the problems of hunger and crisis intervention by providing food hampers with 3 day supply of food as an emergency measure to those identified by frontline care workers.

The aim of Tracy's research is to address the establishment, running and effectiveness of food banks and the implications for users of food banks in the UK.

She proposes to identify two cities of similar population sizes, representative of different socio-economic populations and identify all the food bank providers in the area. Once all the providers, no matter how small, have been identified a descriptive survey will be undertaken to address questions such as; who are the providers of food aid? Who are the recipients of food aid? Where do the food banks get the food from? How is of surplus food distributed? What is the eligibility criteria to receive food? Who refers individuals / families to the food bank? Is the food given as a one off emergency intervention or can recipients return and if so at what intervals? In what quantity is food given? Who determines (if at all) which foods are needed? What food is given out - do recipients have any choice?

  • Once the data has been analysed to form the foundation of the research a phenomonological approach will be adopted to explore:
    1)      The lived experiences of the food bank users;
    2)      The experiences of the food bank workers (both employees and volunteers).

Why it matters for food policy

There are known food banks which come under the umbrella of organisations for example FareShare and the Trussell Trust but there are also a number of  independent providers of food for those in need throughout the country.

The lack of joined up working is potentially problematic as it is not known who receives food hampers/boxes, what eligibility criteria is used or the quantity or quality of the food which is distributed. Also due to the ad hoc nature of provision, food recipients may go from one provider to another creating dependency on charitable donations. There is also a dearth of information related to the experiences of UK food bank users and the concept of dignity in accepting a basic human right, also the experiences and perceptions of those who work in food banks as either employees or volunteers.

Research interests

Food poverty; social return on investment.