Food insecurity and the food bank industry: a geographical analysis of food bank use in Christchurch
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
Food banks are potent symbols of the prevalence of poverty and food insecurity in affluent countries, yet they have received very little academic attention in New Zealand. Previous food bank research in this country has mainly been instigated by the voluntary welfare sector and has focused on client characteristics and patterns of use. This study expands on these concepts in the local context from a socio-spatial perspective, and examines food banks from both a service provision and service user perspective. This study aims to: document the growth of the food bank industry and determine its role within the broader voluntary welfare sector; determine patterns and trends in usage; examine client characteristics, neighbourhoods and reasons for use; and discuss the implications of food bank use and how dependency on food banks may be reduced. This study examines non-identifiable socio-demographic and address data obtained for food bank clients (n=1695) from a large Christchurch social service agency for 2005. Data from a second large Christchurch social service agency is used to illustrate certain spatial and temporal trends. Additional interviews and questionnaires are conducted with staff and volunteers in the local food bank industry, and with the clients themselves. Results show that food bank use appears not to have decreased in recent years. Maori, sole parents/sole caregivers and beneficiaries are over-represented amongst food bank clients, while there is an apparent under-use of the food bank by other key groups. Poverty and food insecurity appears to be dispersed in Christchurch and is not confined to the most deprived neighbourhoods. A range of factors contributes to food insecurity and food bank use, with the main reasons relating to lack of income, household bills and unaffordable housing. Changes in macro social and economic policy, rather than increased client education, will contribute to a decrease in the need for food banks.