Category: Blog

International examples of best practice emergency provision supporting people facing destitution

Feeding Liverpool recently submitted three submissions to the All-Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into ending the need for foodbanks.  A wide range of opinions have been offered about the best way forward for ending the need for foodbanks – this work will form the foundations for a wider review of our city’s crisis response.

This series of blogs is taken from the Good Food Community Advocacy and Policy Group submission.

What can we learn from international examples of best practice in terms of effective emergency provision in supporting people facing destitution?

By Ellen Schwaller, PHD candidate at the University of Liverpool and member of the Good Food Community Advocacy and Policy Group

Food insecurity is rooted in long-term social inequalities. Household income alone is the strongest predictor of being at-risk for experiencing food insecurity[1]. Centring this issue as a symptom of deeper and complex issues is key to understanding the role of various interventions to address both long- and short-term food insecurity. Community-based, food assistance programmes, while important to alleviate temporary food insecurity, are not viable long-term solutions[2] and in some cases were not successful in reaching all food insecure households experiencing additional crises during the COVID 19 pandemic.[3] Fiscal policies supporting families such as targeted cash-transfers lead to better food security outcomes,[4] and further evidence supports shifting to more comprehensive, population-based fiscal solutions (e.g. a modified universal-basic income and increases to minimum wage) for better outcomes.[5]

Here, examples of targeted (food-based) fiscal interventions from the United States are briefly summarised and examined. Outside of in-kind food provision, interventions in developed countries are split into two approaches: subsidies and income or cash-transfers. These are often aimed at the household or individual experiencing food insecurity. One of the most wide-reaching cash-transfer policies in the US is the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). While it is generally considered effective in improving food security for the most disadvantaged, it has been criticised for a number of reasons (e.g., as an entitlement programme there are stigma and barriers to access and gaps for ineligible households experiencing food insecurity).

This well-established and far-reaching programme provides a platform to adapt to address additional needs and leverage for other interventions.  During the COVID 19 pandemic this was achieved through top ups to funding and was successful at preventing food insecurity.[6] Equally, other interventions (e.g. food financing initiatives) can be combined with SNAP to further improve access to healthy foods.[7] Nationally, double dollar programmes for fresh produce at farmers markets are also leveraged to increase access to fruits and vegetables and simultaneously support the local food system.

Less far-reaching but important to consider is the Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program within the USDA. It supports nutrition incentive (NI) programmes, produce prescription programmes, and related training. A recent report demonstrated a two dollar return for every one dollar spent to the local food retail economy along with sustained nutritional benefits and reduced food insecurity to participants in the funded interventions.[8] The report includes additional details and outcomes of a two-year period of funding for 30 programmes across the US The breadth of NI programmes funded demonstrate promising local and community-driven models to improve food security and nutrition while supporting the local economy and food system (e.g., doubling dollars at local farmers’ markets, subsidising community supported agriculture shares). It also highlights programmes that support both accessibility and availability of healthy food (e.g., mobile markets).

This type of initiative marries community-based knowledge of local systems and needs with the necessary infrastructure and support from larger government funding; however, the temporary nature of this grant-making process is cause for concern and must be combined with long-term efforts to address root causes of food insecurity. Leaning on community-based efforts and charities rather than comprehensive reform is a dangerous approach especially when faced with extreme shocks. Ensuring more permanent, government-based structures need to be in-place to support households at risk of and those already experiencing food insecurity.

[1] Gundersen C, Kreider B, Pepper J. The economics of food insecurity in the United States. Appl Econ Perspect Policy. 2011;33(3); Leete L, Bania N. The effect of income shocks on food insufficiency. Rev Econ Househ. 2010;8(4); Sriram U, Tarasuk V. Economic Predictors of Household Food Insecurity in Canadian Metropolitan Areas. J Hunger Environ Nutr. 2016;11(1).

[2] Loopstra R. Interventions to address household food insecurity in high-income countries. Proc Nutr Soc. 2018;77(3):270–81.

[3] Men F, Tarasuk V. Food insecurity amid the COVID-19 pandemic: Food charity, government assistance and employment. Can Public Policy. 2021;COVID-19(April 2020).

[4] Ionescu-Ittu R, Glymour MM, Kaufman JS. A difference-in-differences approach to estimate the effect of income-supplementation on food insecurity. Prev Med (Baltim) [Internet]. 2015;70:108–16. Available from:

[5] Gundersen C. Viewpoint: A proposal to reconstruct the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a universal basic income program for food. Food Policy [Internet]. 2021;101(April):102096. Available from:; Men F, Urquia ML, Tarasuk V. The role of provincial social policies and economic environments in shaping food insecurity among Canadian families with children. Prev Med (Baltim) [Internet]. 2021;148(October 2020):106558. Available from:

[6] Bryant A, Follett L. Hunger relief: A natural experiment from additional SNAP benefits during the COVID-19 pandemic. Lancet Reg Heal – Am [Internet]. 2022;10:100224. Available from:

[7] Cantor J, Beckman R, Collins RL, Dastidar MG, Richardson AS, Dubowitz T. SNAP participants improved food security and diet after a full-service supermarket opened in an urban food desert. Health Aff. 2020;39(8).

[8] Gretchen Swanson Center for Nutrition. Gus Schumacher Nutrition Incentive Program Training, Technical Assistance, Evaluation, and Information Center (GusNIP NTAE): Impact Findings [Internet]. 2021. Available from:

Measures for setting income levels and their role in tackling short-term crisis

Feeding Liverpool recently submitted three submissions to the All-Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into ending the need for foodbanks.  A wide range of opinions have been offered about the best way forward for ending the need for foodbanks – this work will form the foundations for a wider review of our city’s crisis response.

This series of blogs is taken from the Good Food Community Advocacy and Policy Group submission.

How can setting income levels, such as Minimum Income Guarantee or a Universal Basic Income, be used to support people facing destitution? What role could these measures play in tackling short-term crisis and ending the need for food banks?

Response written by Revd Dr Tony Bradley, Senior Lecturer in Business, Liverpool Hope University and member of the Good Food Community and Advocacy Policy Group

There has been a significant debate, globally, on the introduction of various forms of guaranteed income or, even Universal Basic Income (UBI) schemes, particularly since the Financial Crash of 2008-09.  Several experiments have been introduced in countries as diverse as Canada, Finland and Kenya.  Most recently, the Welsh Senedd has introduced a scheme to provide a guaranteed income scheme for care leavers, at the age of 18, to enable them to have a baseline income, to help them, as they leave care and begin independent living.

This scheme, launched in June 2022, has the aim of avoiding the ‘cliff edge’ of moving young people from local authority institutional living, into the adult world, often with no immediate support network around them.  The Welsh experiment had been, initially, trailed as one involving UBI[1].  But, this confused a range of policy objectives. David Deans[2] of BBC Wales Politics commented on May 17, 2021:

“Plans are at an early stage, but it seems unlikely it would be a large-scale project.  A spokesman for the Welsh government said: “We have followed the progress of universal basic income pilot projects around the world with interest and believe there is an opportunity to test the concept in Wales.  There is more work to be done in this area but we are interested in developing a small pilot, potentially involving people leaving care.”  In the event, the Welsh scheme has been reported, widely, as an example of UBI, when it is no such thing.

The basics

“Under a UBI system, every citizen, regardless of their means, receives regular sums of money for life to cover the basic cost of living.  Its proponents argue that it can alleviate poverty and give people time to retrain and adapt to changing workplaces, be more creative and become more active and engaged.  Jonathan Williams, co-founder of the Cardiff UBI Lab, part of the UBI Lab Network, comments: “It’s a 21st-century solution to 21st-century problems – it could be our generation’s NHS…Our generation needs a policy that is going to help people and I think this could really invigorate entrepreneurialism and help local economies.”” (Harris, 2020)[3].

Fundamentally, UBI is a cash benefit provided without conditions to everyone. This conflicts with the essential basis of British welfare policy, which is selectivist in nature, and mistrustful of the universalist principle.  As far back as the Elizabethan and Victorian Poor Laws, British social policy has sought to differentiate between ‘the deserving’ and ‘the undeserving’ poor.  In the recent past there have been upsurges of populist media outrage, at “overly generous welfare payments”, in terms of “scroungerphobia” (Deacon, 1978, Becker and MacPherson, 1985, Littler and Williamson, 2017, Kaufman, 2021[4]).

But, contemporary shifts in the relationship between work, welfare, fiscal policy and the current debates over cost-of-living crises, food insecurity and shortages – because of supply chain shocks, such as the Ukraine war – have all played into a redrawing of the narrative. The threat to many sources of employment from AI-based automation and changes to the nature of work have led to increasing interest in UBI.  Nevertheless, there remains a prevailing attitude that welfare – especially in any universalistic form – leads to people becoming feckless, lazy and workshy.

The debate

The recent experiment with UBI, in Finland, exposed a core fault-line in the debate.  In Finland 2,000 people were given a monthly flat payment of €560 (£490; $634 at the time) from January 2017 to December 2018.  The aim was to see if a guaranteed safety net would help people find jobs, and support them if they had to take insecure work.  The Finnish experiment was declared unsuccessful, by many in the UK.  It did not lead to people becoming more motivated to seek work, all it did was make people feel happier and less worried about the future! In other words, there is a clear divergence between those who see the purpose of basic income as a driver to increasing employment or to improving well-being.

Nor does this split reflect conventional political divisions. Sam Bowman[5], of the right-wing think-tank, the Adam Smith Institute, wrote in 2013:

“The ideal welfare system is a basic income, replacing the existing anti-poverty programmes the government carries out (tax credits and most of what the Department for Work and Pensions does besides pensions and child benefit). This would guarantee a certain income to people who have no earnings from work at all, and would gradually be tapered out according to earnings for people who do have an income until the tax-free allowance point, at which point they would begin to be taxed”.  This is a selectivist, not a universalist standpoint, but since 2013, views have shifted towards UBI, even on the Right. Indeed, the idea of a Negative Income Tax was introduced by Milton Friedman, the high-priest of free-market thinking, and of Reagonomics and Thatcherism, in the 1970s.

The reality

So, could some form of basic income be a better way to address food poverty and insecurity than the presence of food banks, pantries and the like? The blunt fact is that despite the various experiments, the overriding limiting factor is cost. The Welsh Government’s new policy is, probably, the most large-scale attempt to introduce basic income anywhere in the world, to date. But it is minimalist in extent, being confined to 18-year olds leaving social care. Clearly, it represents a significant watering-down of Mark Drakeford’s initial thinking.

Furthermore, Wales cannot fundamentally change the welfare system for its own citizens, under current devolution arrangements. Benefits are controlled from Westminster not Cardiff. At the time of the announcement of the Welsh pilot, a spokesperson for the Department of Work and Pensions said: “We have no plans to introduce a universal basic income. It would not incentivise work, target those most in need in society, or work for those who need more support, such as disabled people and those with caring responsibilities…our approach to welfare recognises the value of supporting people into well paid work, whilst protecting the most vulnerable in society.” It is selectivism writ large.

Another approach would be to provide all households with food vouchers, which could be redeemed at supermarkets and other retail outlets. This was the approach taken during WW2, with rationing.  The administration of such schemes is enormous. Furthermore, it flies in the face of the principles surrounding the introduction of “Universal Credit” (which is neither universal nor credit!). Such voucher schemes have the advantage of connecting income payments directly to specific social need. But they are, often, seen as wasteful, cumbersome and, fundamentally paternalistic, rather than trusting people to spend their own money in the most “appropriate” ways.

Despite the ingenuity and forward-thinking nature of many attempts to introduce basic income – and nothing, to date, on the scale of a national UBI – it is likely to flounder on the bases of cost and Britain’s reticence towards universalistic welfare provision. Perhaps, the most egalitarian and progressive policy would be to introduce a negative income tax, which our system of tax thresholds attempts. Nevertheless, the current Government has brought more people into the higher rate tax bracket than at any time since the 1940s, according to the Institute of Fiscal Studies, by 2019 (Sandlin, 2019)[6]. Currently, the Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR), the Government’s own financial adviser, estimates that this will be, officially, the case by 2026 (Timmins, 2022)[7].

So, national policy is, currently, running counter to the principles of basic income. Given this policy backdrop and the current shocks to household income, it is hard to see that UBI, or anything like it, can be seen as a replacement for the, admittedly, shameful requirement for extensive networks of foodbanks across the UK. That is the depressing political economy of Britain in 2022. One which seems to consign ever greater numbers of the poorest to a reliance on handouts, rather than the dignity of having a basic income to live on, which they can spend in the ways that they see fit, mostly on food, heating, rent, clothes and fuel.


[1] Morris, S (2021) Wales to launch pilot universal basic income scheme.  Guardian online. 14 May; Winckler, V (2020) Some thoughts on a UBI for Wales.  The Bevan Foundation. 15 June.

[2] Deans, D (2021) Welsh Universal Basic Income pilot could focus on care leavers.  BBC New Online. 17 May.

[3] Harris, J (2020) Why universal basic income could help us fight the next wave of economic shocks. Guardian online. 3 May; Murray, J (2020) Our generation’s NHS: support grows for universal basic income.  Guardian Online. 10 August.

[4] Deacon, A, (1978) The scrounging controversy: public attitudes towards the unemployed in contemporary Britain. Social Policy & Administration, 12, 2, 120-135 ; Becker, S. and MacPherson, S., 1985. Scroungerphobia‐where do we stand”?. Social Work Today18(2), p.85; Littler, J and Williamson, M (2017) Rich TV, poor TV: work, leisure, and the construction of “deserved inequality” in contemporary Britain. In Media and class, pp. 146-159. Abingdon: Routledge; Kaufman, J (2021) States of Imposture: Scroungerphobia and the Choreography of Suspicion. In The Imposter as Social Theory, pp. 171-190. Bristol: Bristol University Press.

[5] Bowman, S (2013) The ideal welfare system is a basic income. Adam Smith Institute blogs. 25 November.

[6] Sandlin, H (2019) Taxes at highest sustained level since 1940s, says IFS | Accountancy Today. 14 November, 2019. [Last accessed: 1 July, 2022].

[7] Timmins, B (2022) Two million more people paying higher rate tax – BBC News. 30 June, 2022. [Last accessed 1 July, 2022].


Rights-based approaches in tackling short-term food crisis and ending the need for foodbanks

Feeding Liverpool recently submitted three submissions to the All-Party Parliamentary Group inquiry into ending the need for foodbanks.  A wide range of opinions have been offered about the best way forward for ending the need for foodbanks – this work will form the foundations for a wider review of our city’s crisis response.

This series of blogs is taken from the Good Food Community Advocacy and Policy Group submission.

How can rights-based approaches be used to support people facing destitution (for example, a statutory right to food, right to social security)? What role could these approaches play in tackling short-term crises and ending the need for food banks?

Response written by Lucy Antal, Lead for Food Justice, Feedback[1], member of the Good Food Community and Advocacy Policy Group and BBC Food & Farming Awards Community Food Champion 2021.

First Covid-19, and now the cost of living crisis, have highlighted the simple inequity within society at present. Low paid jobs, with zero hours contracts, the complicated universal credit welfare system, and now the bumpy shift to digital for healthy start vouchers has left many households struggling to put food on the table. In a world where energy and transport costs are rising rapidly, and the cost of housing and council tax is also rising by % increments each year, food is often the only “moveable” bit of the household budget. Destitution is often only a missed pay check away (due to illness for example, as statutory sick pay is only £99 a week). The complex bureaucracy behind social security payments means waits of up to 5 weeks for support, so food aid organisations end up providing support.

A rights-based approach, on a cash first basis, creates a breathing space within this maelstrom of outside stressors. Citizens would truly have a safety net if this was enshrined in law. Food is a building block of life and we cannot survive long without it. Enabling or triggering immediate payments gives people agency and choice over their food purchasing and would support community initiatives such as food pantries, where a small fee membership gives access to a wider range of low-priced items. Food banks only work in a short-term capacity, and were indeed created as an emergency response for absolute destitution. They have now become ubiquitous, but the model is not sustainable – see the linked paper which challenges the “win win” scenario of food surplus redistribution becoming the solver of food insecurity[2]. At the same time as the rise of the food bank culture, we have seen a reduction in social spaces and citizen support mechanisms that once provided additional support in times of need. Children’s centres, youth services, older people’s social clubs and work canteens have all been whittled away in the past decade of austerity and public money reductions. Food banks are also not agile when it comes to supporting people with dietary or culturally based requirements, they have a rather workhouse approach of you get what you are given.

When you or your children are hungry, there is no room in your head for anything else. Young people in Blackburn with Darwen ran a campaign called #gettinghangry – which referenced the anger caused by hunger, which led to them being excluded from school on behavioural grounds when in fact they needed a meal. A cash first approach, as championed by IFAN ( ) and the rights based approach from Ian Byrne MP ( both seek to enable a basic human right of food being available to everyone, regardless of income or location. With over 11M people living in food insecurity, and 7.4M admitting to skipping a meal on a regular basis due to their financial situation, it is past time to consider this option, it needs to be ratified.




Guest Blog: Boris Johnson – don’t turn your back on children’s health

Beth Bradshaw is a project manager and registered associate nutritionist working at the public health charity Food Active. Beth is currently co-chair of the Good Food Plan Policy and Advocacy Community Group.


Over the last two weeks there has been lots of news about the Prime Minister’s decision to delay important policies that are designed to reduce childhood obesity.

It was back in 2018 that the government first announced they were considering introducing measures to take junk food out of the spotlight, by restricting advertising of unhealthy food and drink, and limiting promotions on unhealthy products by price and location in store. They spent a few years talking to the food industry, campaigners, professionals and the public to see what they thought about the plans.

In 2020, in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, the Prime Minister launched the National Obesity Strategy which officially confirmed that new legislation would come into place. This included:

  • New laws to restrict advertising of unhealthy food and drink products before 9pm on TV, and similar restrictions online including social media (January 2023)
  • New laws to restrict multibuy promotions on unhealthy food and drink. This includes deals such as ‘Buy One Get One Free’ and ‘Buy 3 for 2’ (October 2022)
  • New laws to restrict unhealthy food and drink being placed at key locations in store. This includes the checkout, store entrances and end of aisles (October 2022)


Why do we need these laws?

These policies were proposed for a range of reasons:

  • The number of children living with obesity rose last year; new data shows that two in five children in England are now above a healthy weight when they leave primary school.[i] Children with obesity are five times more likely to become adults with obesity,[ii] increasing their risk of developing conditions including type 2 diabetes, cancer, heart and liver disease.
  • Children living in deprived areas are more than twice as likely to be living with obesity than their more affluent counterparts.
  • Reducing obesity is complicated but we know that marketing of unhealthy food and drinks can influence our behaviours.
  • Seeing just one minute of unhealthy food advertising can lead to children eating an additional 14.2 calories.[iii] These prompts, that can lead to eating just a little bit extra every day, can lead to excess weight in children – as it can take as little as 46 additional calories every day.[iv]
  • Multibuy promotions don’t actually save us money; they cause us to spend up to 20% more on products we were not intending to buy and are often unhealthy. So not only are they bad for our pockets, they are bad for our health too.



But just a few weeks after the laws had become official UK law, the Prime Minister decided to delay these plans for at least 12 months.

According to reports, the move came amid concerns about the impact the policies could have on the ongoing cost of living crisis. It was also suggested that the government wanted to allow businesses more time to prepare for the new laws.

In response to the first excuse, the government’s own impact assessment found that multibuy promos cause consumers to spend +20%, plus are often found on unhealthy food and drink so are bad for our pockets and our health. Secondly, both marketing and promotions legislation was first proposed in 2018. We believe the food industry has had ample time to prepare and adjust (small businesses are exempt anyway). Obesity levels are continuing to rise. The health inequality gap continues to grow. We believe these important measures simply cannot wait.


Who is sticking up for children’s health?

The response to this announcement has been huge and far reaching. Last Friday Jamie Oliver arranged a peaceful #EtonMess protest, attended by members of the Bite Back 2030 youth board calling on the government to reconsider the move.

At Food Active we coordinated a letter to the Prime Minister on behalf of public health directors across the North of England to emphasise the need for these laws to reduce obesity and ‘level up’ the North-South divide when it comes to health inequalities[v].

Liverpool City Council’s very own Director of Public Health Professor Matthew Ashton was one of the directors who supported the letter, and said:

“The National Obesity Strategy, published just under two years ago, held so much promise to help tackle the environmental drivers of obesity, and we welcomed this with open arms. This is why we are so very disappointed to see the sudden change in direction on important policies that we know will help reduce childhood obesity and support efforts to ‘level up’ the significant health inequalities found across the North and South of England.


Local areas are working really hard to address these issues but there is only so much we can do without support from National Government. Marketing and advertising of unhealthy food and drink across TV and online platforms are bombarding our children and we need the government’s help to put an end to this. If the government are truly serious about reducing childhood obesity and levelling up inequalities in health, we ask that they don’t turn their back on the national obesity strategy now.”


Tesco’s and Sainsbury’s have also shown the government the food industry are ready for these changes; having both committed to implementing their own restrictions on multibuy deals on unhealthy food and drink in October 2022 despite the delay.


How can I get involved?

Want to help support efforts to call on Boris Johnson to reconsider his #ChildHealthUTurn? Here are some ways you can get involved:

  • RT our tweet here
  • RT Bite Back 2030’s youth board’s plea to Boris Johnson here
  • Write to your local MP via Sustain’s e-action here


Stay up to date with all the latest Food Active news by subscribing to our mailing list here and to get in touch, see below.


[ii] Simmonds M, Llewellyn A, Owen CG, Woolacott N. Predicting adult obesity from childhood obesity: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2016 Feb;17(2):95-107.
[iii] Russell SJ, Croker H, Viner RM. The effect of screen advertising on children’s dietary intake: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Obes Rev. 2019 Apr;20(4):554-568. doi: 10.1111/obr.12812. Epub 2018 Dec 21
[iv] Plachta-Danielzik S, Landsberg B, Bosy-Westphal A, Johannsen M, Lange D, Muller M. Energy gain and energy gap in normalweight children: longitudinal data of the KOPS. Obesity (Silver Spring) 2008, 16(4).
[v] Food Active (2022) Public Health Directors Call To Push Through Marketing Restrictions On Less Healthy Food And Drink To Reduce Health Inequalities And Level Up The North Of England HTTPS://FOODACTIVE.ORG.UK/PUBLIC-HEALTH-DIRECTORS-CALL-TO-PUSH-THROUGH-MARKETING-RESTRICTIONS-ON-LESS-HEALTHY-FOOD-AND-DRINK-TO-REDUCE-HEALTH-INEQUALITIES-AND-LEVEL-UP-THE-NORTH-OF-ENGLAND/

“Can we put the lights on?”

By Dr Naomi Maynard Good Food Programme Director with St Andrews Community Network

It’s 8.40, nearly time to open. Members have been queuing outside since 8am having a chat whilst the volunteers have set out the fruit and veg and put the kettle on. I’m at the desk again, computer ready to sign people into the food pantry. But somethings off. It’s raining, and dingy in here today, I can’t quite see the screen. Shouting across to Bill, anther volunteers, I say “can we put the lights on?”

He says no.

You see, the food pantry where I volunteer is in our local church, a beautiful, freezing, Grade 1 listed building. The stain glass windows have holes in them. In the winter it often feels colder in here than outside. It used to cost about £35 each pantry session to heat the building and keep the lights on. Since the energy prices went up, that’s now more like £70.

This scenario is being played out across the country, with voluntary organisations making small cut backs as they too are feeling the pinch. Switching off the heating and lighting (‘but we still want to be welcoming’), volunteers starting to claim for petrol costs to pick up donations, when before they saw it as their gift to the charity.  Little changes, pointing to a bigger crisis: that the charity sector is creaking and it cannot cope with what may be ahead.

Donations at the city’s foodbanks are down at a time when demand is increasingly sharply. Perhaps donations haven’t ever fully picked back up since the pandemic, due to a combination of more people shopping online (and therefore no longer dropping items in supermarket collection point) and an increase in working from home meaning that some office foodbank collections haven’t resumed. As more middle-income families are now feeling the pinch, charities are already reporting cuts to giving, meaning this isn’t likely to get better.

This week, in a survey of foodbanks conducted by the Independent Food Aid Network, 78% reported a drop in food or financial donations in recent months, with over half of these having to dip into their financial reserves to pay for food or vouchers. Will some soon be closing their doors?

Locally, St Andrews Community Network, who run North Liverpool Foodbank and the North Liverpool Your Local Pantry Network are feeling this mismatch in supply and demand. So far this month they have received in 2725kg in food donations, via the Fans Supporting Foodbanks match-day collections, supermarkets and other community donation points. They have given out 4490kg across their networks. They used to have a mountain of baked beans stored up in a warehouse. This has now gone. With the football seasons almost over (a key source of donations) it is going to be a long summer. Fans Supporting Foodbanks have posted a photo of a bare cupboard, appealing for donations. The situation has become unsustainable.

Radical change is needed. And the squeezed charity sector cannot be the answer.

In the next few weeks (not months) we need the government to make some bold decisions – uprating benefits in line with the reality of inflation, reinstating the £20 Universal Credit uplift and an increase in emergency funding for local authorities, would be a start.

But longer term we need more money in people’s pockets, no one should be living off emergency food aid. Everyone in work should be paid at least the Real Living Wage, we need improved working conditions and stable contracts that allow workers to adequately provide for their households (see Zero Hours Justice – a campaign – ZERO HOURS JUSTICE) . We need a stronger benefits safety net and a more generous and fair asylum system. And placed-based solutions which improve access to good food, coupled with an overhaul of our food system being unafraid to produce more food on our own soil.

Many others will have solutions – businesses, academics, policy makers, charities, community activists. Let’s put them into action now. Winter is coming. We cannot delay.

“When do we riot?”

By Dr Naomi Maynard, Good Food Programme Director and Natalie Davies

April Fool’s Day, our kids were late back from their school trip. A blessing really, giving me time to stop and listen. Natalie’s been a good friend for over 3 years, since we were pregnant at the same time with our littlest children and I was new to Everton. Where we live doesn’t have the best statistics, we have the highest Index of Multiple Deprivation score for the city, are one of England’s top ten most economically deprived food deserts, and have significantly more than the national average of children, by reception age, who are obese. New research has also identified our constituency as the least able to withstand the rising cost of living in the UK.  But for us it is home, an area with amazing community, a beautiful view of the city and teachers who champion our kids.

“Over six months of trying and still nothing” Natalie exclaims. She has been trying to switch from her Pre-Payment energy meter to a direct debit energy deal, but none of the major suppliers will have her. “It’s exhausting, they just say ‘we have no-one in your area to do this’ or ‘phone again in a few months’, I want a smart meter and to be on a direct debit. I know this will save me money but what can I do?

“I couldn’t even take up Martin Lewis’ advice to top up our meter as much as we could before the price changes came in at the start of April. I didn’t have anything spare that week to put on, and even if I did my supplier said they’d recoup their losses next time I topped up! What a joke!”

In charity and academic speak, what Natalie is experiencing is called The Poverty Premium – when lower income households are paying more for essential goods or services because the best deals aren’t available to them. This means the impact of price rises aren’t experienced evenly across all pay brackets, unfairly putting significant, avoidable additional pressure on lower-income households trying to keep their heads above water.

Natalie works part-time for the NHS as a cleaner, bringing home just £9.20 a hour. This, coupled with her Universal Credit entitlement, goes quickly once she has paid for rent, council tax, energy, transport to work, food and clothes for her two children. She also is working towards a degree part-time. For Natalie the end of the £20 per week Universal Credit uplift in October signalled the end of ‘Funky Fruit Fridays’ where she’d take the kids to the supermarket after school to pick fresh fruits to try over the weekend. She’s worried about the energy prices going up and what it’ll mean she has to cut back on.  Her household budget, like those of so many others, simply doesn’t have many more places it can be cut.

As we chat, my grand phrases about how we can ‘redesign this man-made economy’  and need to ‘ensure those in power know the reality on the ground’ suddenly feel hollow: change just isn’t coming fast enough. Yes, the Chancellor announced additional funds for our council to distribute through the Household Support Fund, and we have the excellent Liverpool Citizens Support Scheme and many charities around who will support households during this crisis. But will this be enough? Is this really the solution? Our lower income households need better wages, a stronger safety net and fair access to the very best deals.

The school bus pulled in, and we were onto the next thing: playtime, dinner, bed. As we parted Natalie threw out the challenge “So, when do we riot?”  Frustration, hopelessness, injustice, outrage spilling out in five short words, spoken with smile.

Why don’t people just make soup?

By Dr. Naomi Maynard, Feeding Liverpool’s Good Food Programme Director

This question “why don’t people just make soup?” gets asked again and again in conversations about how to support people on lower incomes so they can eat good food.

It may seem like a simple solution and eating healthily on a tight budget is certainly possible, but there are hurdles in the way that make this more of a challenge than may first appear to someone who hasn’t experienced this first-hand.

Sarah’s story*, shared more formally as part the House of Lords’ Hungry for Change: Fixing the Failures in Food Select Committee Report, and personalised for this blog, highlights why preparing healthy, nutritious meals, particularly for those on the lowest incomes, isn’t as simple as “just make soup”.

Sarah’s a part-time cleaner for the NHS and a mum to three kids ages two, seven, and thirteen. She’s used to buying ready meals for her family; they are easy to prepare (10 minutes in the oven whilst the littlest one runs around her feet), are usually enjoyed by all her children, and are often on deal at her local convenience store.

However, after worrying about how to support her children to eat a varied and healthy diet on her income, she was encouraged by a friendly charity worker to “just make vegetable soup”.

But would her children even like vegetable soup? This was a worry for Sarah, she couldn’t afford for the meal to get wasted.

Sarah didn’t have any recipe books to use, so after difficulties logging online – Sarah can’t afford fast WIFI in her house, and doesn’t have unlimited data on her phone – she managed to find a recipe.

She didn’t have all the ingredients already, and some of the stock and flavourings weren’t available in her local convenience store. This meant a bus trip to a larger store and £4.00 on the return fare with the toddler in tow.

If the ingredients had been sold in Sarah’s local shop, they are likely only to be available in small quantities and therefore decreasing the value for money. A cost of the ingredients of a new meal without a “middle class store cupboard” is estimated at £15.[1]

After reaching the larger store, Sarah had to resist her toddler’s cries “can we get the cheesy pizza! Look mum, ice-cream!” – what’s called Pester Power – and the shiny deals of quicker, simpler meals displayed throughout the store.

When home, Sarah realised she didn’t have all the equipment listed in the recipe to make the soup. She needed weighing scales, knives, a peeler, and a hob, and ideally a blender, although if she boiled the veg for long enough, she could do this with a fork. Sarah also needed the money for the extra gas; this was going to take longer than some of the meals she usually made.

This meant more purchases, which, whilst Sarah knew would pay off in the long run, when budgets are tight there isn’t always money to be able to buy investment items like these.

Following the new recipe itself was a little stressful and certainly time-consuming especially with the fear that if the soup goes wrong, or is unpopular with the rest of the family, or simply doesn’t taste good, her kids may want to eat something else. Meaning she’d have to pay for two meals along with the time, money, and energy spent on the soup having been wasted. If that happened, the remaining ingredients may also go to waste. There was also the worry that her hungry children or her teenager may not feel full having eaten only soup.

Separately, Sarah’s worries and difficulties are not insurmountable. Combined, however, they represent real barriers to accessing good food and a healthy diet. When there are so many easy, cheap, and reliable alternatives available, “just make soup” or similar suggestions can very quickly become an unappealing option.


*Whilst Sarah is a fictional character used to personalise the case study written for the House of Lords Select Committee, her experiences echo those we have heard through our work with people with experience of poverty

New government scheme fails to address the scale of food poverty this winter

The Government has announced a new fund for councils to support low-income families access food and other essentials during the winter. Councils should adopt a cash-first approach when supporting households this winter.

Read this blog by Sustain’s Cecily Spelling who explains why this fails to address the scale of food poverty this winter.

The Department for Work and Pensions has announced a new £500 million Household Support fund to support low-income families across the UK. Distributed by councils, this fund aims to support families access the food and other essentials they need during the winter as we continue to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This new fund, similar in format to previous Covid-19 grant schemes, comes days before the Government’s cut Universal Credit by £20 a week, despite strong opposition from its own party and civil society. It also comes amidst continued calls from the End Child Food Poverty campaign, spearheaded by Marcus Rashford, for changes to longer-term solutions to child poverty including increasing the eligibility threshold for both the free school meals and the Healthy Start voucher scheme and long-term funding for holiday food and activities programmes.

Cecily Spelling, Food Poverty Campaign Coordinator, Sustain says:

“By launching the Household Support Fund, the Government is giving crumbs from the table with one hand, whilst taking away the rest of the store cupboard with the other. Instead of emergency funds, it should focus on the longer-term changes that will offer the dignified support people deserve. This should include dropping plans to cut Universal Credit, extending the eligibility for free school meals and Healthy Start, and long-term funding for the holiday activities and food programmes. That would be a start, not more measures that paint over the cracks of poverty.”

What does the fund offer?

This new fund will provide £500 million across all four UK nations. The Scottish Government will receive £41 million, the Welsh Government will receive £25 million, and the Northern Ireland Executive will receive £14million. Devolved nations will be able to choose how to best allocate this funding, but funding will be distributed by local authorities in England.

Finer details are yet to be announced but we believe that councils will be able to decide how this money is distributed. Funding could be delivered through cash-first approaches which offer a more dignified access to support for people that need it. It could also be used to plug the holes in the Holiday Activities and Food Programme in England, which is currently only funded by government to provide support for one week during the two-week Christmas break and excludes provision for the upcoming October or February half terms.

What do we need instead?

The Household Support Fund is another sticking plaster to a much deeper problem, offered as an olive branch in the face of revolt from civil society and Parliament. Instead of more emergency funds that only reach a small minority of people, we need longer-term solutions that offer dignified support and choice for people and can build systemic change. We call on the Government to:

  1. Cancel the planned £20 cut to Universal Credit to ensure our social security system is adequate for those that need it. With 40% of people on Universal Credit already in work, it’s clear government needs to invest in both social security and wages
  2. Extend eligibility for free school meals for all children in households with income below £20,000 (at present the threshold for England and Wales is £7,400), and to ensure this includes children that are undocumented or living in households under the No Recourse to Public Funds (NRPF) immigration condition.
  3. Extend eligibility for Healthy Start vouchers for pregnant women and families with small children to include all children under 4 years old (currently cuts off at age 3), and all households with income below £20,000 before benefits, including undocumented children and those under NRPF immigration conditions as above.
  4. Provide long term funding for school Holiday Activities and Food Programmes, with increased eligibility as for free school meals.

What can you do to ensure the Fund is well-used?

If you’re a local authority, you can ensure you provide the most dignified form or support over the winter by offering cash-first approaches where possible. Watch this webinar for examples of how local authorities have used cash-first approaches in their areas or find other ways to support recovery in this short guide.

If you’re a food poverty alliance or food partnership, get in touch with your local authority and ask how they plan to distribute the funds. Can you help them deliver this support or can you offer advice about cash-first approaches? Please do share this webinar or short guide with them.

If you’re in Liverpool and looking for support, please visit the Come2Gether website 

Introduction to Food Insecurity in Liverpool: Definitions, Impact, Measurement, and Next Steps

Prepared By:
Grace Patterson, Research Associate, Centre of Excellence for Sustainable Food Systems

What is food insecurity and how is it measured?

Food insecurity (FI) is defined by the FAO as “a situation that exists when people lack secure access to sufficient amounts of safe and nutritious food for normal growth and development and an active and healthy life”. Food security spans four levels: food secure, mild FI, moderate FI, or severe FI.

Food insecurity takes many forms and is often (but not always) related to hunger. Those experiencing food insecurity might have enough to eat but are not able to access the foods they prefer or need. Others might routinely experience an inability to purchase food at the end of each month year-round, while some only experience food insecurity in moments of unforeseen crisis, such as emergency bills or in between jobs. In some cases, children in the household might have enough to eat, but only because caregivers are going without. Therefore, it is difficult to define a “typical” case of food insecurity.

Typically measured at the household measure, there are several validated screeners that provide varying levels of detail on the type and extent of household food security. These include (among others) the nine-question Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS)1, the simple Hunger Vital Sign two-question screener2, and multiple US Department of Agriculture Economic Research Service screening tools of various lengths and language designed for different situations3. These screeners ask questions about people’s worries related to purchasing or having enough food, as well as any times when they were unable to find food to eat. 

In the UK, FI is not measured as a government statistic. Statistics such as food bank usage are often used as proxies but underestimate the true burden of FI4. The March 2021 Department of Work and Pension Family Resources Survey5 has, for the first time, provided some measure of household FI using ten questions from the USDA household FI screening tools. The report indicates that 13% of the population experienced FI (pre-COVID). However, more progress is needed to accurately capture the growing burden of FI in the UK. International groups, such as FAO and UNICEF, calculate nationwide estimates of FI in the UK and other countries. A recent UNICEF study6 found that 19.5% of children under the age of 15 lived with an adult experiencing moderate or severe FI. This statistic placed the UK among the bottom of European countries in terms of child food security. 

What is the context of FI in Liverpool?

FI is commonly associated with specific living conditions, environments, or community groups, such as poverty, rural areas, or single-parent households. However, these associations may change with time and place. In Liverpool (as everywhere) a major driver of FI is economic distress. Liverpool is home to three of the ten most economically deprived food deserts (areas with poor access to food) in England, where poor food access and economic insufficiency intersect7. As data on FI is not directly collected in Liverpool, it is difficult to know exactly which populations are experiencing FI. Proxy metrics that indicate the level of FI among economically distressed groups include data on eligibility for and uptake of Free School Meals and Healthy Start Uptake and Universal Credit and jobless claims, however, these data are usually not given at a granular enough level for detailed analysis.

Other major groups in Liverpool that may struggle with FI include ethnic minorities and asylum seekers who struggle to access culturally acceptable foods, as well as those with disabilities, in long-term care, or shielding. These groups may also struggle for economic reasons but are also likely impacted by poor access, whether in terms of store availability or other access issues such as digital exclusion. COVID-19 has somewhat altered the demographics of foodbank use, with the need expanding and shifting as people’s living conditions and livelihoods were upended8. The long-term impact of the pandemic on patterns of food insecurity in the region remains to be seen as restrictions relax and societal (and personal) recovery unfolds.

Encouragingly, Liverpool has many assets in food provision and local food systems, including a strong emergency provision network, expanding associations of empowering community pantries, innovative social enterprises and food businesses, and swelling local interest in small food businesses and locally produced foods. Liverpool is geographically positioned in a region with a port that plays a role in food and agricultural product import and export. In the Liverpool local authority across 56 farm holdings, farmers are growing increasing numbers of livestock in the grasslands surrounding the city22. In the wider North West, these grasslands support livestock and dairy production, and farming employs approximately 40,000 people23. The tourist economy also supports many food-related jobs. Finally, there is strong organizational support and interest around food security in Liverpool, as evidenced by participation in the Right to Food Campaign, the End Hunger UK Campaign, and others.

How has FI changed in Liverpool over time?

From 2010-2020, trends of increasing life expectancy, decreasing mortality, and reductions in poverty across the UK slowed, and in some cases reversed9. While quality data on food insecurity levels over this time period is not available, other statistics such as child poverty and food bank usage can help paint a picture of the state of food security over time. In 2018, child poverty levels exceeded pre-2010 levels, at 30% (after housing costs). These numbers were over 40% for households with single parents, more than three children, or ethnic minorities. The number of those in work experiencing poverty has also increased in this time period, from 3 million in 2010 to 3.7 million in 2017. Rates of poverty are highest among people from ethnic minorities or with a disability, or both. The number of people on zero-hours contracts in the UK has also skyrocketed, from 168,000 people in 2010 to nearly 900,000 in 2018. The strength of support benefits has also decreased over this time, with tighter restrictions on accessing programmes like Healthy Start, and reductions in food welfare budgets. The number of Trussell Trust network food banks has exploded from 65 in 2011 to 1,200 in 2019.

This widening of social and health inequities has been particularly strong in the North, as well as among the most deprived 10% of neighborhoods. In Liverpool in 2019, 49% of all LSOAs fell among the 10% most deprived in England10 and have been among the most deprived local authorities for the past 15 years. Life expectancy at birth, overall health, and spending on social services have all worsened disproportionately in more deprived areas compared to less deprived areas, further exacerbating existing inequities9. In fact, funding cuts in UK cities and towns from 2010 to 2018 were the most extreme in Liverpool, where they equated to a decrease of £816 per resident per year. Together, these statistics suggest that food insecurity has also likely increased in Liverpool over the last 10 years, especially among those living in areas of high deprivation.

Health and Wellbeing Impacts of FI

FI is associated with poor health outcomes such as malnutrition, obesity, nutrition-related non-communicable diseases, and depression11,12. Liverpool experiences significantly worse health outcomes than the England average, many of which are frequently related to FI or poor diet. A summary of the Liverpool Local Authority Health Profile shows that the region experiences worse rates of cardiovascular mortality, cancer mortality, adult and child obesity, and long-term disability than the England average (but comparable or lower levels of hypertension and diabetes)13.

FI impacts people of all ages and has intergenerational effects. Even moderate FI can impact child development14, future educational and economic attainment15, mental health16, and socialisation and wellbeing12,17, in turn contributing to wider socioeconomic and health disparities as they grow into adulthood. Food-based coping skills and unhealthy food behaviours formed in the context of childhood FI usually persist into adulthood18. Adults experiencing FI often also experience stress and anxiety, particularly if they are concerned about providing for other family members, and rely on unhealthy food-based coping habits19. In highly developed countries such as the UK, FI is associated with obesity, vitamin deficiencies, and increased chronic disease due to increased reliance on processed foods, inability to access healthy diets, and changes in metabolism associated with inadequate nutrition20. Seniors with FI can also experience poorer mental health, reduced nutrient intake, and limitations in completing daily activities11. FI, therefore, has the potential to impact people of any age, in multiple facets of their life.

Evidence for Reducing FI 

There are many programs in place with the aim to reduce FI across different vulnerable groups and through the actions of different organizations in society. However, evidence supporting the effectiveness of these interventions is often lacking or anecdotal. Reliable quantitative and qualitative data on the effectiveness of interventions can be useful to win support and funding for the expansion of interventions, to identify unintended effects of the intervention (positive or negative), and to increase the efficiency and effectiveness of the program. 

Economic constraints are among the most commonly reported barriers to consuming a healthy diet. Many other issues stem from economic issues, such as access to transportation, shops, proper cooking appliances, and implements. While most people know what a healthy diet looks like, many fail to achieve it due to lack of access, perceived inconvenience, or lack of sufficient motivation. The modern food environment is saturated with advertisements and promotions heavily skewed towards the consumption of foods high in salt, sugar, and/or fat overconsumption of minimally processed, whole foods. Therefore, actions that target personal behavior change (such as educational campaigns) are relatively ineffective if carried out in absence of increased economic support and changes to the environment in which dietary choices are made. Methods to address this environmental component include bans on advertising to children or increasing access to affordable produce in underserved regions. Finally, consideration must be given to the idea of food as a means of connecting with others, creative expression, a celebration of culture, and autonomy. Long-term solutions for healthy eating require building knowledge, skills, and behaviors in a safe environment and empowering people to experiment with food and take ownership of their dietary choices.

Overall, data on the effectiveness of interventions against FI is lacking in the UK compared to countries such as Australia, Canada, and the US. However, we can assume that the many similarities between these countries will often allow for the extrapolation of their findings to the UK. The Centre for Food Policy at City, University London has recently compiled a list of 42 actions across agriculture, international trade, research, supply chains, finance, education, regulation, and more that are evidence-backed and have a strong chance to reduce FI21. During the development of the Good Food Plan, we have produced a similar, but more focused catalogue of actions to be taken at the local level to reduce FI in Liverpool, including short-term “band-aid” actions and more long-term, strategic actions. Detail on the specifics of different interventions can be found in the document. 

Measuring Impact

As previously discussed, FI is poorly measured and described in Liverpool (and the UK). To monitor the impact of interventions going forward, it is imperative that we can routinely measure food insecurity at a population level (less frequently) and in key/accessible demographics (more frequently). Good data infrastructure is critical for rapid identification of and response to spikes of food insecurity, as well as long term planning and management. This will require collaboration between different data collection agencies and development of data sharing and management protocols. The newly developed Liverpool Civic Data Collective may be able to help make this a reality.

Short-term steps to improve FI monitoring in Liverpool include identifying proxies that are collected at a spatially fine enough level to be helpful, finding data that is collected routinely enough to be helpful, and finding data that is shareable. Beyond measuring FI directly, there are many proxies and indicators of FI and related risk factors that can be monitored to give a glimpse of the state of FI in Liverpool and measure any progress over time (see spreadsheet). These span health, jobs, economics, household composition, etc. Care must be given to identify proxies that match expected rate of change from the intervention and are collected at logical timepoints. When launching new interventions, thought should be given to developing a data collection plan alongside the intervention to ensure data on implementation and effectiveness will be collected. Longer term, plans should be developed to routinely sample for FI in the city using existing community connections and employing a validated screener. Measuring the problem of FI is integral to developing effective plans to defeat it, and to inspiring others to persist in the effort year after year.


1 Coates J, Swindale A, Bilinsky P. Household Food Insecurity Access Scale (HFIAS) for measurement of food access: Indicator Guide (v. 3). Washington, DC, 2007

2 Hager ER, Quigg AM, Black MM, et al. Development and validity of a 2-item screen to identify families at risk for food insecurity. Pediatrics 2010; 126. DOI:10.1542/peds.2009-3146.

3 USDA ERS. Food Security in the US: Survey Tools. 2020.

4 University of Oxford, The Food Foundation, Sustain. Measuring household food insecurity in the UK and why we MUST do it: 4 facts you should know. London, 2016.

5 Department for Work and Pensions. National Statistics: Family Resources Survey: financial year 2019 to 2020. 2021

6 Pereira AL, Handa S, G. Holmqvist. Prevalence and Correlates of Food Insecurity among Children across the Globe. Florence, 2017

7 Kellog, Social Market Foundation. Can everyone access affordable, nutritious food ? 2018.

8 Loopstra R. Vulnerability to food insecurity since the COVID-19 lockdown: Preliminary report. 2020

9 Marmot M, Allen J, Boyce T, et al. Health Equity In England: The Marmot Review 10 Years On. London, 2020.

10 Liverpool City Council. The Index of Multiple Deprivation 2019: A Liverpool Analysis. Liverpool, 2020.

11 Gundersen C, Ziliak JP. Food insecurity and health outcomes. Health Aff 2015; 34: 1830–9.

12 McIntyre L, Williams JVA, Lavorato DH, Patten S. Depression and suicide ideation in late adolescence and early adulthood are an outcome of child hunger. J Affect Disord 2013. DOI:10.1016/j.jad.2012.11.029.

13 PHE. Public Health Profiles. 2019.

14 Aceves-Martins M, Cruickshank M, Fraser C, Brazzelli M. Child food insecurity in the UK: a rapid review. Public Heal Res 2018; 6: 1–162.

15 Howard LL. Does food insecurity at home affect non-cognitive performance at school? A longitudinal analysis of elementary student classroom behavior. Econ Educ Rev 2011; 30: 157–76.

16 Heflin C, Kukla-Acevedo S, Darolia R. Adolescent food insecurity and risky behaviors and mental health during the transition to adulthood. Child Youth Serv Rev 2019; 105. DOI:10.1016/j.childyouth.2019.104416.

17 Ashiabi GS, O’Neal KK. A framework for understanding the association between food insecurity and children’s developmental outcomes. Child Dev Perspect 2008; 2: 71–7.

18 Scaglioni S, De Cosmi V, Ciappolino V, Parazzini F, Brambilla P, Agostoni C. Factors influencing children’s eating behaviours. Nutrients 2018; 10. DOI:10.3390/nu10060706.

19 Puddephatt J-A, Keenan GS, Fielden A, Reaves DL, Halford JCG, Hardman CA. ‘Eating to survive’: A qualitative analysis of factors influencing food choice and eating behaviour in a food-insecure population. Appetite 2020; 147: 104547.

20 Castillo DC, Ramsey NLM, Yu SSK, Ricks M, Courville AB, Sumner AE. Inconsistent Access to Food and Cardiometabolic Disease: The Effect of Food Insecurity. Curr Cardiovasc Risk Rep 2012; 6: 245–50.

21 Hawkes C, Walton S, Haddad L, Fanzo J. 42 Policies and Actions To Orient Food Systems Towards Healthier Diets for All. Centre for Food Policy Research. 2020;

22 Defra. Structure of the agricultural industry in England and the UK at June. April 2021. . Accessed July 8, 2021

23 National Farmer’s Union: North West Office. Back British farmers in the North West. . Accessed July 8, 2021.

Doodles against Poverty: re-framing our conversations

All of us talk about poverty regularly – whether we work in an organisation on the frontline of poverty or not, we habitually react and comment on what we read in the news and see in social media about poverty in our country. We notice signs of poverty in our communities and make ‘off the cuff’ comments to our friends, colleagues, those we pass by about the state of poverty in the UK.

Research by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) identified three common beliefs held about poverty in the UK today. These permeate into our thoughts and those casual comments we make:

1.   We are post poverty – with many believing that poverty doesn’t exist in our country today. Frequently we refer back to images we have seen of poverty in other parts of the world, setting up an ‘us and them’ dichotomy.

2.   Poverty is self-made – when people acknowledge poverty in our country they believe that it is a result of people’s own making. If only they tried harder or worked more they would not be in poverty.

3.   The game is rigged – that there will always be poverty in the world and that nothing will ever change that.

When combined the effects of these beliefs mean that poverty often gets dismissed out of hand or is seen as inevitable and impossible change.


Telling a new story

We need to tell a new story about poverty – framing it in a way so we can build public and political will to solve it. We need to frame our story and solutions in ways people will hear and respond to.

‘Framing’ means making deliberate choices about how we communicate – both in our formal outputs – reports, blog posts, tweets – but also in our everyday conversations. It is about understanding how people think and feel, and telling stories that have the potential to change hearts and minds.

JRF argue that we need to frame poverty as a problem that can be solved – and make it clear that benefits are part of the solution, not the problem itself.



They found that using the language of compassion and justice was a more effective way to connect with people’s emotions than language about equality and fairness.

Metaphors are a powerful tool to help people understand poverty and related issues – JRF have produced simple effective cartoons to help us frame poverty:


Simple Swaps

JRF’s research found that there are several simple, effective ‘swaps’ we can make when talking about poverty.

Two we can begin to use in our everyday conversations could be:

SWAP “It’s not fair” for “It’s not right” – this connects with people’s sense of compassion and justice and moves away from a points scoring criteria about fairness

SWAP “Living in poverty” for “locked into poverty” – this conveys the image of poverty being an involuntary restraint that stops people from choosing their own path.

Stop, frame, repeat

It’s going to take time, and practice to re-frame how we think and communicate about poverty.

We will all make mistakes along the way.

Let’s take an extra moment before we speak or write to choose our words and images with care, so together we can work towards solving poverty in the in UK.


Want to find out more about framing? Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s framing toolkit is the perfect place to start.

All cartoons used in this blog belong to JRF / Frameworks and can be found in their Framing Toolkit.