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Food insecurity amongst older people in the UK

Kingsley Purdam (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Aneez Esmail (University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Elisabeth Garratt (University of Oxford, Oxford, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 7 January 2019

Issue publication date: 17 May 2019




The purpose of this paper is to present findings from research into food insecurity amongst older people aged 50 years and older in the UK.


This paper uses secondary analysis of national-level survey data and semi-structured interviews with older people receiving emergency food from foodbanks.


There is a forgotten care gap in the UK where a substantial number of older people are living in food insecurity. Many older people live alone and in poverty, and increasing numbers are constrained in their spending on food and are skipping meals. Food insecurity amongst older people can be hidden. Within families a number of older people were trying to ensure that their children and grandchildren had enough to eat, but were reluctant to ask for help themselves.

Research limitations/implications

The broad categorisation of older people aged 50 and above comprises people in very different circumstances. The qualitative component of the research was undertaken across various sites in a single city in England. Despite these limitations, the analysis provides important insights into the experiences of the many older people enduring food insecurity.

Practical implications

An increased public and professional awareness of food insecurity amongst older people is needed. Increased routine screening for under-nutrition risk is a priority. Policy initiatives are needed that are multifaceted and which support older people across a range of age groups, particularly those living alone.

Social implications

Food insecurity amongst older people in the UK raises questions about the present policy approach and the responsibilities of the government.


The research provides important new insights into the experiences of the many older people experiencing food insecurity in the UK by drawing on survey data and interviews with older people using foodbanks.



The authors would like to thank all the interviewees who participated in the research and the foodbank volunteers who supported the research.


Purdam, K., Esmail, A. and Garratt, E. (2019), "Food insecurity amongst older people in the UK", British Food Journal, Vol. 121 No. 3, pp. 658-674.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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