Understanding the rise of food aid and its implications for the welfare state: a study of Scotland and Finland

MacLeod, Mary Anne (2018) Understanding the rise of food aid and its implications for the welfare state: a study of Scotland and Finland. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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Abstract

Over the past decade, the UK has witnessed a considerable expansion in the provision and use of charitable food aid, particularly food banks. The phenomenon has become a prominent political issue, and a rapidly expanding field of academic study. However, there is limited data available as to the prevalence of food aid use or the factors associated with it. The growth in food aid has also prompted research and policy interest in the wider issue of food poverty: the extent to which people struggle to afford food; its drivers and impacts; and the role which charitable food aid has come to play in food poverty experiences. There is a recognised need for better understanding of both food poverty and food aid use as separate but connected phenomena.
The recent rise of charitable food aid in the UK has been mirrored across other European welfare states, provoking significant questions about the changing roles of, and relationships between, statutory and voluntary sectors in providing a social safety net. There is a need for greater critical reflection on how food aid is challenging and changing welfare states, particularly in countries where it has only recently become widespread. The overall aim of this thesis is to gain new empirical and theoretical insights into the rise of food aid and its role in relation to the changing nature of the welfare state. In order to address this aim, a mixed methods study of food poverty and the rise of food aid within the welfare state was undertaken. Scotland was selected as the major case study for the research, with a particular focus on the city of Glasgow, while Finland provided the minor, comparative case. The quantitative part of the study involved cross-sectional and longitudinal analysis of an existing household survey of 15 deprived neighbourhoods in
Glasgow (the GoWell study). The objective was to examine the scale of both food poverty and food bank use. Binary logistic regression modelling was used to examine the relationship of these outcomes with socio-demographic, health, and financial variables. The qualitative fieldwork involved a total of 51 semi-structured interviews. These included interviews with a sample of the GoWell study participants (n=12); service providers in Glasgow (n=12); and policy actors across Scotland (n=9). Fieldwork in Finland involved interviews with policy actors and individuals working in statutory and voluntary services (n=18).
This study provides quantitative analysis of a self-reported measure of food bank use, including empirical evidence of the scale and drivers of food poverty and food bank use in deprived neighbourhoods. While four per cent of respondents were found to have reported food bank use in 2015, 17 per cent reported difficulties affording food. The findings highlight the impact of financial factors, specifically of recent UK Government welfare reforms, on both food poverty and food bank use. The study found that survey respondents with mental and physical health problems were more likely to experience both food poverty and food bank use than those who reported good health. Worsening health was also found to increase the likelihood of entering food poverty over time. The qualitative findings provide evidence of how food banks are shaping experiences, perceptions, and delivery of the welfare state at a local level, and also consider how policy makers perceive the state-food aid relationship.
Drawing on welfare state regime theory, analysis of interviews with policy actors in both Scotland and Finland inform an examination of the various roles and relationships of food aid and the welfare state across different regime types. Theoretical characterisations of the relationship between food aid and the welfare state, arising from analysis of interview data in both countries, are presented. These include understandings of food aid in relation to a welfare state which might be considered: contingent; shrunken; impersonal; or regressive. Comparing Scotland and Finland offers important insight into how and why food aid may play different roles in different welfare state contexts.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Food insecurity, food aid, welfare state, mixed methods.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > H Social Sciences (General)
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Social and Political Sciences > Urban Studies
Supervisor's Name: Hastings, Professor Annette and Kintrea, Professor Keith and Curl, Dr. Angela
Date of Award: 2018
Depositing User: Mary Anne MacLeod
Unique ID: glathesis:2018-30930
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 07 Nov 2018 15:55
Last Modified: 20 Dec 2018 08:40
URI: http://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/30930

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