Newspaper coverage of food insecurity in UK, 2016–2019: a multi-method analysis
Yau A., Singh-Lalli H., Forde H., Keeble M., White M., Adams J.
Background: Food insecurity is a growing concern in the UK. Newspaper coverage can reflect and shape public and political views. We examined how frequently food insecurity was reported on in UK newspapers, how the problem and its drivers were described, and which solutions were proposed. Methods: Using Factiva, we searched for news articles that were substantively about food insecurity and published in national UK newspapers between 01 January 2016 and 11 June 2019. We examined whether the number of articles differed over the study period, and conducted a thematic analysis to theoretical saturation using a random sample of articles. Results: Overall, 436 articles met our inclusion criteria and 132 (30%) were analysed thematically. Reporting was more prevalent in the summer, with mentions of ‘holiday hunger’ among children, and leading up to Christmas, when charity was encouraged. Articles often contained views from advocacy groups and charities, who appeared to play an important role in maintaining news interest in food insecurity. From the thematic analysis, we developed themes related to the problems (‘definitions of food insecurity’ and ‘consequences of food insecurity for individuals’), drivers (‘insufficient income as an immediate driver’ and ‘government versus individual responsibility’), and solutions (‘charitable food aid’ and ‘calls for government action’). The problem of food insecurity was often defined by food bank use or hunger, but other definitions and a range of consequences for individuals were acknowledged. Articles identified government as a driver of food insecurity, especially in relation to the roll-out of Universal Credit. Few articles proposed individual failings as a driver of food insecurity. The reported existing solutions predominantly focused on food banking and redistributing ‘food waste’. The public, charities, and individuals experiencing food insecurity were generally portrayed as supportive of government action to tackle food insecurity. However, contention within government regarding the extent of food insecurity, governmental responsibility and potential solutions was reported. Conclusions: Food insecurity was a topic of significant interest within UK newspapers. Newspapers were used to call for government action and advocate for structural, income-based solutions.