Understanding hunger: Strengthening data collection on foodbank use and intervention in the UK

Dr Rachel Loopstra and Professor David Stuckler will partner with the Trussell Trust to pilot a new data collection system to improve our understanding of the needs of foodbank users in the UK.

The Trussell Trust runs a network of over 400 foodbanks, giving emergency food and support to people in crisis across the UK. Between 2010 and 2015 the number of people receiving food aid from Trussell Trust foodbanks jumped from 61,500 to over a million. But we do not yet understand what the scope of the problem is - or what can be done to fix it - because we don’t yet have the data.

In this ESRC IAA-funded knowledge exchange project, Dr Rachel Loopstra and Professor David Stuckler will partner with the Trussell Trust.  Together they will pilot a new data collection system to improve our understanding of the needs of foodbank users.

In close collaboration with the Trussell Trust public affairs team, they have developed a new data collection method.  It involves foodbank volunteers collecting information about foodbank clients using mobile technology.  In this way they can, at low-cost, routinely collect detailed data about users at a representative sample of foodbanks across the entire Trussell Trust network, something that has never been done before.

The new data will feed into a project report co-produced by the researchers and Trussell Trust public affairs team.  The report will describe the population of foodbank users and highlight key data understood for the first time because of this new data collection method.  It will be presented at the annual Trussell Trust Foodbank Network conference.  The project team will also organise ten regional workshops for Trussell Trust foodbank managers to build interest in data collection among foodbank managers and provide training for a future rollout of the new method.

Within the Trussell Trust, this project will be invaluable for informing their practices and outreach.  But it will also inform academic research on hunger and foodbank use by providing frontline insights into these problems for the researchers.

In addition, the information collected will serve as a rich source of data for future research to better understand and assess foodbank usage and what affects it. It will allow, for example, researchers to analyse the impact of future changes to the national minimum wage and welfare support on foodbank usage, which are key questions for policymakers, the Trussell Trust and other civil society organizations. In this way, this project will provide the data urgently needed to inform practice and policy for addressing hunger in the UK.

Professor David Stuckler is Professor of Political Economy and Sociology and Dr Rachel Loopstra is a Postdoctoral Researcher in Comparative Welfare Systems in the Department of Sociology at the University of Oxford.

This project was funded by Oxford's ESRC Impact Acceleration Account.


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