We are developing case studies that support us to highlight connections between issues of inequality locally and globally. These case studies emerge through the work and in collaboration with our Community of Practice. We use the PLiNGs (personal, local, national, global) compass to generate these case studies:
Sausage Roll Case Study
Case Study – Monday Morning Sausage Roll
On a Monday morning – a group of young people entered their training space to find that their regular breakfast of sausage rolls was no longer available. The management team in the youth centre had cut the sausage rolls, as a budget saving measure. There had been no consultation with the young people, or the youth work staff, prior to this action. Without negotiation, this transformative action from the board caused upset, anger and fear amongst young people.
Their key youth worker spent time with the young people, processing the feelings behind the upset and anger. Initially, some of the young people wanted to disrupt the space, they wanted to vent their anger by breaking furniture. After talking it through, what transpired was that several of the young people were coming out of the weekend feeling hungry, the sausage roll represented the promise of having their hunger satisfied. The fear of being hungry lay behind the upset and anger. The youth worker explained that there were other food options available, but all of these involved sitting down at a table with cutlery. This was something that brought discomfort and a sense of shame as eating around a table was something unfamiliar to several of the young people. The sausage roll was eaten outside, chatting with their friends, all the while adjusting to the space and using the sausage roll as a way to regulate their emotional state. Knowing that this was available to start the day brought a sense of security, belonging and membership. The sausage rolls were removed for budget savings reasons, but, if they were understood as having a wider function, part of nurturing young people’s wellbeing, they might have been seen as supporting the wider educational context of the centre. As well as supporting young people to regulate their behaviour and feel secure in the space, food can impact young people’s ability to concentrate, and to focus in a learning environment, cutting the sausage rolls, would work against the purpose of the training centre.
In addition, young people’s choice and autonomy regarding the food they consumed had been negatively impacted. From a certain age, food becomes something we choose, when this choice is taken away, it can impact our sense of agency, autonomy and personal growth and development.
Youth workers have continued to observe the impact of rising inflation and the cost of living crisis on communities – and how this can at times manifest itself as a reliance on services outside the family to meet their needs. This raises the issue of food security.
In this instance, young people were encouraged to develop an action plan by the key youth worker to share their frustration with the management. She wanted the group to see themselves as having power in the situation, i.e., developing an action plan, engaging in constructive dialogue with the management, helping the management to understand the wider role of the sausage roll in ultimately supporting educational outcomes and well-being. Young people were encouraged to think about the issue further, and how similar issues might be affecting other people in their community. They had discussions about the existence of food banks, and what power these young people might have to influence change in their area. A local connection was made between the youth centre and the foodbank to facilitate young people to learn about the issue of food security, and how it was impacting families in their communities. The conflict had arisen between the management team and the young people – it had been a blind spot for the management, – but a youth work process empowered young people to engage in dialogue to realise their own power and effect change (they got the sausage rolls re-instated two days a week), not just individually but collectively.
Young people are often limited when it comes to choosing the food they want to eat, whether it’s in school or other settings. This issue identified the limited scope young people have to exercise choice when it comes to food they consume. Where this intersects with low-income, it raises the issue of food poverty or food insecurity as something that is prevalent in communities throughout Ireland and is a national issue. Research from Barnardos in 2022 found that 3 in 10 participants witnessed child food poverty first-hand. Three in four (74%) of those who witnessed child food poverty first-hand noticed an impact on the child’s physical development, while a similarly high number saw how it affected their social and emotional development (70%). Food poverty also affected the child’s education (65%) and ability to maintain relationships (44%).
With inflation (the rate at which prices for goods and services rise) at an all-time high, young people and their families are not getting the opportunity to choose the food they eat, impacting development and other key outcomes for these families. Research from Barnardos shows that the number of parents using food banks and relying on food donations has doubled, while the cost of shopping items has gone up right across the board. Meanwhile, the crisis has also created winners – the food billionaires and the powerful food companies and traders who are able to profit from the current system.
Being food insecure means that you have less capacity to control your food supply. Choices are taken away from you. While the young people in this case study were moved to disrupt their learning environment because of the threat to their food supply, globally, not having access to food is linked directly to conflict escalation. And more often than not, climate change and conflict come together as inter-related issues. Food is an essential resource, when its supply gets interrupted, young people and their family’s lives are interrupted, impacting growth and development, and progress in all areas of their lives. Lack of adequate nutrition for children impacted by climate change and conflict, at an early age negatively impacts on development. If a child doesn’t have the right nutrition in their diet, when a baby, they are not curious [and] not exploring. And if you aren’t curious and exploring, you’re not learning. Hunger has a direct relationship with poor educational outcomes.
And while global food corporations make unprecedented profit, lack of capacity to influence food choice, is a local as well as a global issue. In a time when food suppliers are reaping unprecedented profit, a greater reliance on markets, financial actors and trade liberalization will not fix the broken global food system. In reality, we need to better regulate markets and create fairer and more flexible trade rules for low-income countries that allow them to build stronger local food systems.
While the management of the training centre were responding to the rising cost of food, as a budgetary issue, the young people showed that access to a choice of food plays a key role in learning and development. They demonstrated a frustration and anger at seeing their food choice restricted, particularly where they were coming to the centre hungry.
Conflict and interruption to food supply are often an intertwined issue, with the World Food Programme suggesting; “… it is clear that hunger can exacerbate conflict. Food shortages deepen existing fault-lines, fuelling grievances. This is particularly the case where poverty and inequality are already present.”
PLiNGs (Personal, Local, National, Global) Compass: