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Gratitude, resignation and the desire for dignity: lived experience of food charity recipients and their recommendations for improvement, Perth, Western Australia

Booth, S., Begley, A., Mackintosh, B. , Kerr, D. A., Jancey, J., Caraher, M. ORCID: 0000-0002-0615-839X, Whelan, J. & Pollard, C. M. (2018). Gratitude, resignation and the desire for dignity: lived experience of food charity recipients and their recommendations for improvement, Perth, Western Australia. Public Health Nutrition, 21(15), pp. 2831-2841. doi: 10.1017/s1368980018001428


ObjectiveThe present study explored recipients’ perceptions of food charity and their suggested improvements in inner-city Perth, Western Australia.DesignIn-depth interviews were conducted with charitable food service (CFS) recipients. Transcripts were thematically analysed using a phenomenological approach.SettingInterviews were conducted at two CFS in inner-city Perth.SubjectsFourteen adults.ResultsThe recipients’ journeys to a reliance on CFS were varied and multifactorial, with poverty, medical issues and homelessness common. The length of time recipients had relied on food charity ranged from 8 months to over 40 years. Most were ‘grateful yet resigned’, appreciative of any food and resigned to the poor quality, monotony and their unmet individual preferences. They wanted healthier food, more variety and better quality. Accessing services was described as a ‘full-time job’ fraught with unreliable information and transport difficulties. They called for improved information and assistance with transport. ‘Eroded dignity’ resulted from being fed without any choice and queuing for food in public places, often in a volatile environment. ‘Food memories and inclusion’ reflected a desire for commensality. Recipients suggested services offer choice and promote independence, focusing on their needs both physical and social.ConclusionsAlthough grateful, long-term CFS recipients described what constitutes a voluntary failure. Their service improvement recommendations can help meet their nutritional and social needs. A successful CFS provides a food service that prioritises nutritious, good-quality food and individual need, while promoting dignity and social inclusion, challenging in the current Australian context.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © The Authors 2018. This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (, which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Publisher Keywords: Charitable food system, Charitable food services, Food charity, Recipient perspective, Food insecurity, Nutrition, Voluntary failure
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Health & Psychological Sciences > Healthcare Services Research & Management > Food Policy
SWORD Depositor:
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