‘Sometimes, it's not just about the food': The social identity dynamics of foodbank helping transactions

Mhairi Bowe*, Juliet R. H. Wakefield, Blerina Këllezi, Niamh McNamara, Lydia Harkin, Rosie Jobling

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Citations (Scopus)


Food insecurity in developed countries has increased rapidly. Research has suggested that stigma may inhibit food-aid help-seeking, but has failed to determine how such barriers might be overcome. Adopting a social identity perspective, this study explored the processes involved in food-aid helping transactions and sought to identify conditions that facilitate positive helping outcomes. Interviews were conducted with 18 clients and 12 volunteers at two English foodbanks, and a theoretically guided thematic analysis was conducted. Two primary themes were identified: ‘Here to Help’ and ‘The Legitimate Recipient’. This article offers a distinct and novel contribution by applying a social identity perspective to foodbank helping transactions, thereby demonstrating how group dynamics and behaviours are integral to these interactions, and by moving beyond the typical ‘Social Curse’ focus on barriers to help-seeking to explore how such obstacles may be overcome. Suggestions for addressing stigma-laden helping transactions and promoting successful delivery of aid are provided.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1128-1143
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Social Psychology
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Oct 2019


  • food banks
  • helping
  • social identity
  • stigma

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Social Psychology


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