‘I feel I'm Giving Something Back to Society’: Constructing the ‘Active Citizen’ and Responsibilising Foodbank Use

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Colleges, School and Institutes


Foodbanks and other forms of charitable welfare provision are fast becoming an established feature of the UK social security system. Drawing on over two years of ethnographic observation in a Trussell Trust foodbank in North East England, this paper explores the relationship between the construction of the ‘active citizen’ and lived experiences of foodbank users and volunteers. Findings show how participants’ experiences and behaviour challenges popular political and policy narratives that individuals are using foodbanks because of poor lifestyle choices. The internalisation or rejection of this narrative is then examined, contrasting the different forms of citizenship that arise. Through the significant work that goes into living on a low income, people both aligned with and challenged the ideas underpinning ‘active citizenship’.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)283-292
Number of pages10
JournalSocial Policy and Society
Issue number2
Early online date14 Dec 2016
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2017


  • ethnography, Foodbank, ‘Big Society’, rhetoric, ‘active citizen’, responsibility, volunteer