Access, dignity, and choice: social supermarkets and the end of the food bank model in the UK?

Nevena Nancheva, Ronald Ranta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Levels of food insecurity (FI) and the need for food support have increased dramatically since the COVID-19 pandemic and the cost-of-living crisis. These crises also enabled substantial innovation in food support provision, including a move away from more traditional food bank models toward social supermarkets (SSM). These are characterized as not-for-profit social enterprises that sell mostly food, at low or symbolic prices to those living near or in poverty. In this article we provide a timely empirical account of SSMs and the experiences and perspectives of their members, focusing on three key themes: access, dignity, and choice. We use a mixed-methods approach based on questionnaires (n = 111) and interviews (n = 25) with SSMs members, engaging with local priorities and perspectives in the active co-creation of the research. Our findings demonstrate that SSM’s provision is more inclusive and mindful of the diversity and agency of their members, doing away with pre-conceived ideas of food support recipients as passive citizens. While not a panacea, we argue that SSMs offer an alternative model for providing food support and one that could be replicated broadly or used side-by-side with food banks.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFood, Culture & Society
Publication statusPublished - 4 Mar 2024

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