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What is food poverty? A conceptual framework

Niamh O'Connor (School of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK)
Karim Farag (School of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK)
Richard Baines (School of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Royal Agricultural University, Cirencester, UK)

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 February 2016



Recently, food poverty has been subject to much academic, political and media attention following the recent reduction in consumer purchasing power as a result of food and energy price volatility. Yet the lack of consensus related to food poverty terminology acts as an inhibitor in both identifying and addressing the issue in the UK, specifically as a separate problem to that of food insecurity. Misunderstanding of terminology is an impediment to identifying similarities and differentials with both developed and developing countries. The purpose of this paper is to address these issues and enhance political and academic discourse.


An exploratory approach utilising secondary research was conducted to assemble sufficient information to ensure an extensive examination, consisting of several sources inclusive of academia, government and non-governmental organisations. The literature was screened for relevance following a broad search which primarily focused upon UK publications, with the exception of national data relevant to specified countries of USA, Canada, Yemen and United Republic of Tanzania (Tanzania).


Economic access, quality, quantity, duration and social dimensions were the common features identified in the majority of the literature. Based upon these elements the proposed concise definition was constructed as; food poverty is the insufficient economic access to an adequate quantity and quality of food to maintain a nutritionally satisfactory and socially acceptable diet.


This study provides a conceptual approach in defining food poverty. Comparative to the countries examined, the UK has significant gaps in understanding and providing strategies in relation to individuals experiencing food poverty, causes and symptoms, methods of alleviation and coping strategies. There is no peer reviewed paper clearly discussing the definition of food poverty, hence, this review paper is original in three areas: establishing a definition for food poverty; clarifying the relationship between food poverty and food security; and discuss food poverty in UK with international comparison.



O'Connor, N., Farag, K. and Baines, R. (2016), "What is food poverty? A conceptual framework", British Food Journal, Vol. 118 No. 2, pp. 429-449.



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