We need to pay more attention to the longer term implications of food banking

The UK news this week has been dominated by reports that there are now more foodbanks in the UK than there are branches of McDonald’s.

The issue of food poverty and the need for foodbanks remains a contentious political issue.  That aside, foodbanks have undeniably become an established feature of the welfare landscape and the food environment in the UK. If current trends continue then the diets of those on low-incomes may become characterised by the inclusion of significant amounts of donated and surplus food. These developments have yet to be integrated into models and concepts of the food environments – something which urgently needs addressing (see our paper on this).

The establishment and long term use of food banks also raises practical challenges for the sector itself.  Food banks were never intended as a long term solution to food poverty – and providing ‘emergency’ relief over extended periods causes ethical, nutritional and logistical problems for food bank organisers. As part of our London-based study on food poverty we interviewed food bank organisers, volunteers, and users about these issues. In preparation for our end-of-project seminar this month, we worked with Preston Street Films to make an infographic outlining these issues. Foodbanks do essential work and a more comprehensive understanding of the challenges they face is vital if UK society continues to rely on them as the frontline response to food poverty.