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The rights-based approach re-politicizes an issue that became de-politicised when charities stepped in to fill the gaps in the welfare system (Riches 19; Dowler and O’Connor 20).Sociologist have used many different approaches to analyse food poverty, including social geography of food deserts (Caraher and Lang 1998; Caraher, Lang and Carr-Hill 1998) social class analysis (Molcho et al 2006), applied social policy research (Lambie-Mumford 2013a, 2013b), phenomenology (Dibsdall et al 2002) and social psychology (Carter et al 2011).This leads them to conclude that dietary education is not the answer (ibid) to food poverty, but that solutions should be practical and direct, such as improving facilities.
This is also true for the parliamentary debate of food bank use (Commons Hansard 2013).
After excluding studies that rely on anecdotal data, we are left with two qualitative studies of the experience of food poverty.
This highlights a significant gap in the literature, especially as we consider the fact that neither was carried out in the UK.
The first looks into the experiences of food insecurity among soup kitchen consumers in Australia (Wicks et al 2006) and the second at feelings, characteristics and effects of food insecurity in Quebec (Hamelin et al 2002).
The political opposition is eager to blame this on coalition welfare policies (Commons Hansard 2013: cols 829).
In a recent press release, the Trussell Trust (2014) states that “83 percent of Trussell Trust foodbanks surveyed recently …
The measures include absolute quantitative measures, such as poverty lines based on calories (Dowler 19); relative quantitative measures, such as percentage of money spent on food (Church Action on Poverty and Oxfam 2013:4); and qualitative measures, such as the definition raised at a Food Partnership workshop:“when food ceases to be a pleasure and social tool for a family, and becomes a source of stress and ill-health” (2012b:4).
The most inclusive definition has been supplied by Dowler and O’Connor, which incorporates qualitative and quantitative measures.
Some other interesting themes in quantitative studies is the concern of food poor people to find foods that fill them up, rather than bring health benefits (Caraher, Lang and Carr-Hill 194; Dowler 19).
36% of the UK low-income population felt they couldn’t eat balanced meals (Holmes 201).