Start date: 1/05/2014

Date of completion: 1/04/2019

Families and Food Poverty in Three European Countries in an Age of Austerity

Food poverty in the global North is emerging as an urgent social and moral concern, increasingly recognized as a central issue in the field of health inequalities in industrialized countries. With widening income disparity in Austerity Europe and ‘the end of cheap food’, these effects are being exacerbated. International media report an increase in the number of children arriving at school hungry, a dramatic rise in the number of food banks handing out food parcels to families and parents forced to choose between ‘heating and eating’. However, little is known about how food practices are negotiated in low-income families, children’s and young people’s perspectives of food poverty and how it affects their lives, or how food poverty manifests and is addressed in different places.

The proposed interdisciplinary, ambitious and innovative study will answer such questions, breaking new ground by:

a) applying a mixed method international comparative case study design to the study of household food poverty

b) including the experiences of children and young people using both extensive and intensive data

c) drawing on methodological developments in the sociology of food and consumption to elucidate habitual behaviour.

Providing for ‘a contrast of contexts’ in relation to conditions of austerity, the study focuses on Portugal, where poor families with children have been most affected by economic retrenchment, the UK, which is experiencing substantial cuts in benefits to poor families, and Norway which, in comparison with most societies, is highly egalitarian and has not been subject to austerity measures. Building on the Principal Investigator’s (PI’s) current mixed-methods UK research on families, food and paid work, the project will develop the PI’s research skills, publication record and international reputation. Engaging academic and non-academic beneficiaries at various stages of analysis and dissemination the study will achieve societal as well as scientific impact.