Evidence demonstrates food insecurity has a detrimental impact on a range of outcomes for children, but little research has been conducted in the UK, and children have rarely been asked to describe their experiences directly. We examined the experiences of food insecure families living in South London. Our mixed-methods approach comprised a survey of parents (n = 72) and one-to-one semi-structured interviews with children aged 5–11 years (n = 19).
The majority of parents (86%) described their food security during the preceding year as very low. Most reported they had often or sometimes had insufficient food, and almost all had worried about running out of food. Two thirds of parents had gone hungry. Most parents reported they had been unable to afford a nutritionally balanced diet for their children, and just under half reported that their children had gone hungry. Four themes emerged from the interviews with children: sources of food; security of food, nutritional quality of food, and experiences of hunger. Children's descriptions of insufficient food being available indicate that parents are not always able to shield them from the impact of food insecurity. The lack of school-meals and after-school clubs serving food made weekends particularly problematic for some children. A notable consequence of food insecurity appears to be reliance on low-cost takeaway food, likely to be nutritionally poor.