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Newspaper coverage of food insecurity in UK, 2016-2019: a multi-method analysis.

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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.



Food insecurity, Food poverty, Frequency analysis, Media analysis, Newspaper, Thematic analysis, Child, Food, Food Insecurity, Humans, Poverty, Refuse Disposal, United Kingdom

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BMC Public Health

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Springer Science and Business Media LLC


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Medical Research Council (MR/K023187/1)
MRC (MC_UU_00006/7)
Wellcome Trust (087636/Z/08/Z)
Economic and Social Research Council (ES/G007462/1)
Medical Research Council (MC_UU_12015/6)
AY was funded via a CEDAR PhD studentship when this work was completed. JA and MW are funded by the University of Cambridge and CEDAR. Funding for CEDAR from Cancer Research UK, British Heart Foundation, Economic and Social Research Council (grant number ES/G007462/1), Medical Research Council (grant number MR/K023187/1), National Institute for Health Research, and Wellcome Trust (grant number 087636/Z/08/Z) is gratefully acknowledged. This work was also supported by the Medical Research Council MC_UU_12015/6. HSL was funded by Health Education England, as a local Academic Clinical Fellow, when this work was completed. HF receives funding for a PhD studentship from the Economic and Social Research Council and Public Health England, and she has received further discretionary funding from the Economic and Social Research Council and Murray Edwards College, Cambridge. MK is funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR) School for Public Health Research (SPHR) (grant number PD-SPH-2015), with additional support from the MRC Epidemiology Unit, University of Cambridge.