Who uses foodbanks and why? Exploring the impact of financial strain and adverse life events on food insecurity

Edwina Prayogo, Angel Chater, Sarah Chapman, Mary Barker, N. Rahmawati, T. Waterfall, George Grimble

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Citations (SciVal)


Rising use of foodbanks highlights food insecurity in the UK. Adverse life events (e.g. unemployment, benefit delays or sanctions) and financial strains are thought to be the drivers of foodbank use. This research aimed to explore who uses foodbanks, and factors associated with increased food insecurity.

We surveyed those seeking help from front line crisis providers from foodbanks (N = 270) and a comparison group from Advice Centres (ACs) (N = 245) in relation to demographics, adverse life events, financial strain and household food security.

About 55.9% of foodbank users were women and the majority were in receipt of benefits (64.8%). Benefit delays (31.9%), changes (11.1%) and low income (19.6%) were the most common reasons given for referral. Compared to AC users, there were more foodbank users who were single men without children, unemployed, currently homeless, experiencing more financial strain and adverse life events (P = 0.001). Food insecurity was high in both populations, and more severe if they also reported financial strain and adverse life events.

Benefit-related problems appear to be a key reason for foodbank referral. By comparison with other disadvantaged groups, foodbank users experienced more financial strain, adverse life events, both increased the severity of food insecurity.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)676-683
Number of pages8
JournalJournal of Public Health
Issue number4
Early online date14 Nov 2017
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2018


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