Even before the COVID-19 pandemic struck in 2020, food insecurity was rising steadily and attracting growing concern across the UK. Young people are disproportionately more exposed to food insecurity because of their higher risks of poverty, destitution and homelessness, and because of discriminations in the labour market and social security system. Despite this, very little is known about youth food insecurity in the UK, where the assumption that young people can rely on parental support prevails. This article draws on qualitative interviews with 13 young people, aged 18–26, conducted during the height of nationwide lockdowns in Edinburgh and London in 2020. By engaging with young people from a range of circumstances, this article provides important insights into experiences of youth food insecurity. It finds that while youth food insecurity stems from the familiar trigger of low income, young people are not only more exposed to this risk, but also encounter additional risks linked to being young, including leaving home for the first time. Similarly, this article illustrates that while people of all ages generally prefer to manage their food insecurity independently due to the stigma attached to food insecurity, notions of independence seem particularly important to the young people and their narratives of emerging adulthood in this study, with implications for their (dis)engagement with support. The findings challenge ingrained policy assumptions about young people, and suggest a need for significant policy activity around youth food insecurity, which has been troublingly overlooked in the UK.
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