An exploration of the support and safety nets in place for families with children experiencing food insecurity

Supervised by Professor Miranda Pallan and Dr Marie Murphy together with Birmingham City Council

To apply for this project, please include ‘Pallan & Birmingham City Council’ as the project descriptor in the subject heading of your email. 

Food insecurity (where people struggle to afford or access food which meets their needs) has wide ranging health and social implications. As costs of living rise, food insecurity is rapidly increasing, particularly among certain population groups such as families with children, ethnically diverse communities, households with low/insecure incomes, and households with a person with disability. 

Support when experiencing food insecurity can include more formal food aid (e.g., food banks, pantries, community kitchens) and informal support, such as through schools, faith-based organisations, and friends/family. However, little is known about what drives risks of food insecurity among population sub-groups or the role of their local communities and social networks in supporting those at risk of, or experiencing, food insecurity. There is a need to further understand the support available, how families engage with it, and where their needs are unmet. 

In collaboration with the Food System Team at Birmingham City Council, the successful candidate will conduct a series of studies aimed at understanding the variations in population access and engagement with local food support and the influences on this over time, with a particular focus on children, young people, and families. These could include studies investigating the roles of schools in providing formal and informal food aid, exploring cultural differences in how families facing food insecurity engage and interact with food support mechanisms, and investigating the changes in needs and support available over time. The studies will use involve both qualitative and quantitative research methods, including interactive and novel methods where appropriate. The results of this PhD will be useful to policy makers and practice partners to understand the impact of food insecurity measures for families and young people. 

We are looking for a highly talented and dedicated PhD student with a 1st class or 2:1 degree in the field of public health, psychology, social sciences, nutrition, or related disciplines. An MSc degree in a relevant area is desirable though not necessary. Previous experience working with diverse communities or schools is desirable. 

We encourage applications from all backgrounds and communities, and are committed to having a diverse, inclusive team. 

Informal enquiries about the project prior to application can be directed to Professor Miranda Pallan (