Kayleigh has been working in academia since 2008 when she was a Research Assistant at Teesside University, working with Professor Tracy Shildrick, Professor Rob MacDonald, and Professor Colin Webster. She is co-author of the book based on the findings of the project, ‘Poverty and insecurity: Life in 'low-pay, no-pay' Britain’ (Policy Press, 2012), winner of the 2013 British Academy Peter Townsend Prize.
Prior to working at the University of Birmingham, Kayleigh was based in the Department of Geography at Durham University (2009-2017). She led a Work Package on ethnography of health inequalities in contrasting areas of Stockton-on-Tees as part of the ‘Local Health Inequalities in an Age of Austerity project’ funded by the Leverhulme Trust (PI Professor Clare Bambra, Newcastle University). As part of this project, she conducted an ethnographic study of the lived experiences of foodbank use in a Trussell Trust foodbank. Her book based on this work, ‘Hunger Pains: life inside foodbank Britain’ (2016, Policy Press), was winner of the 2017 British Academy Peter Townsend Prize.
Kayleigh is currently Co-Investigator on the Nuffield Foundation funded Covid Realities research programme (April 2020 – December 2021), exploring how families in poverty with dependent children are experiencing the pandemic, while also tracking how the social security system responds. Kayleigh is leading on two Work Packages. Firstly, the ‘Covid-19 and low-income families: researching together’ collective, which involves working closely with a range of research teams across the UK working with families in poverty, to support the generation of data specifically on Covid-19, and the synthesising and dissemination of relevant findings to policy makers and other key audiences. Together, they are a collective of 14 projects working with over 4,000 parents and carers across the UK. Secondly, she leads a Work Package on support for the wider research and policy community, which has involved creating a space for researchers to collectively think through how to ethically and sensitively research in these new times through a webinar and blog series.
Building on her previous ethnographic work on foodbanks, Kayleigh is interested in what we can learn from North America and Canada in terms of their history of charitable food provision, and the growing corporatisation and institutionalisation of charitable aid we are witnessing in the UK context. In 2019, she completed a British Academy Rising Star Engagement Award exploring this. The award led to the formation of an international networking alliance, the Global Solidarity Alliance for Food, Health, and Social Justice, which is a collaboration between the UK and international scholars, as well as non-governmental organisations, grassroots campaigners, and people with lived experience of food poverty from the UK, US and Canada.
In October 2020, Kayleigh was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize to develop a major new programme of work on the institutionalisation and corporate capture of food charity in the US, Canada, and the UK – and beyond. Beginning in November 2021, the work will examine the increasing normalisation and corporatisation of emergency food charity, and how this links to welfare state developments. It will also explore what can be learned from building solidarity towards challenging the institutionalisation of charitable food.