School of Social and Political Science

Families and Food in Hard Times: European Comparative Research

13 October 2021
11:30 - 13:00


Online - email for Teams link


In the UK and elsewhere in the global North, Covid-19 has exposed and exacerbated stark health and social inequalities that widened in the wake of the 2008 global financial crisis and so-called austerity measures that diminished the welfare state. Low-income families with children are among those hardest hit, with growing numbers experiencing food insecurity and accessing ‘emergency’ provision. International comparative research has the potential to shed light on the conditions in which households experience food insecurity and the range of resources on which families draw to feed themselves in times of crisis. However international quantitative research tends to treat the household as an undifferentiated unit whilst qualitative research has generally been conducted at the national level. Only rarely have studies of poverty or food insecurity set out to examine the experiences of children.

In the wake of the 2008 global financial, Families and Food in Hard Times (2014-2019), funded by the European Research Council (grant agreement n° 337977), set out to address these gaps. The study applied a mixed methods, embedded case study design to examine the ways in which social contexts and social positionings mediate the extent and experience of food poverty in three European countries: the UK, Portugal and Norway. Drawing on the recently published Families and Food in Hard Times, co-authored with Professor Julia Brannen, this talk will introduce the project and how it conceptualised food poverty in wealthy societies, discuss the study’s design and focus on households as resource units, and share some findings and recommendations.

O’Connell, R. and Brannen, J. (2021). Families and Food in Hard Times: European Comparative Research. London: UCL Press. Download for free here:




Key speakers

  • Dr Rebecca O'Connell, Reader in the Sociology of Food and Families Thomas Coram Research Unit, UCL Institute of Education