Contradictions, dilemmas, views and motivations of volunteers in two community food support schemes in two London boroughs

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Hilda Mulrooney Kingston University and London Metropolitan University, UK

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Ronald Ranta Kingston University, UK

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The voluntary and charitable sector is responsible for much food support in the UK, in the absence of direct government action. A rise in food insecurity (FI) places additional importance on the work of unpaid volunteers, instrumental in food support schemes. Their perceptions, views and experiences are essential contributors to maintaining and enhancing such provision. Semi-structured interviews were held with 51 volunteers at two food support schemes in neighbouring London boroughs. Most volunteers were white and middle-aged and almost half were in paid work. Generally high levels of empathy towards clients were expressed, although some were concerned about possible abuse of the support. Contradictory views were expressed in relation to both personal responsibility for FI and the pay-as-you-feel model; training on both is needed. Major motivators for involvement in volunteering were the perceived value of the work and alignment of projects with personal interests, skills and beliefs. Benefits were viewed as wider than solely nutritional. Ethical difficulties described included the appropriateness of using surplus food to address FI, allowing supermarkets to effectively ‘greenwash’ and failing to address underlying drivers of both FI and food overproduction. Volunteers were also concerned that their involvement allowed the government to abdicate responsibility.

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Hilda Mulrooney Kingston University and London Metropolitan University, UK

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Ronald Ranta Kingston University, UK

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