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UK print media coverage of the food bank phenomenon: from food welfare to food charity?

Rebecca Wells (Centre for Food Policy, City University London, London, UK)
Martin Caraher (Centre for Food Policy, City University London, London, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 26 August 2014




The purpose of this paper is to explore how British print media have reported the emergence of food banks in the UK.


The research uses the news database Nexis and focuses on the period since the global financial crisis in 2007 in nine national UK print media titles. The search criteria included mention of the term food bank at least three times in the newspaper article and a UK focus. This resulted in 190 usable articles from the newspapers.


There were no UK-focused newspaper articles before 2008 and few until 2012 when the number increased dramatically. A key theme in reporting was increasing numbers of food banks and users of them. The data most often cited were from the Christian charity The Trussell Trust which runs a franchise system of food banks. There were clusters of newspaper articles indicating a common source. Few of the articles used direct quotes from current food bank users. A “frame contest” appeared in 2013/early 2014 with newspaper articles reporting both changes in welfare provision and the proliferation of food banks as the reason for the increase in food banks and food bank use. Tensions emerged between three key sets of players: government ministers, church leaders and The Trussell Trust as the key provider of food banks in England.

Research limitations/implications

The authors only examined newspapers, the reporting in other media may be different.

Practical implications

The media reporting of food poverty and the use of food banks has the potential to influence public perceptions and policy.


This is the first study to look at how food banks are reported by the media.



Wells, R. and Caraher, M. (2014), "UK print media coverage of the food bank phenomenon: from food welfare to food charity?", British Food Journal, Vol. 116 No. 9, pp. 1426-1445.



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