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Ervaringen van schaamte en psychologisch lijden door voedselbankklanten

Authors:

Hille Hoogland ,

Hille Hoogland, MSc is a medical anthropologist. She is conducting (external) PhD research about foodbank clients in Amsterdam and the effects of participation on a trainee programme. She is also a project manager at De Regenboog Groep, an organization with a mission to reduce social poverty through social, informal and day care.
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Jonathan Berg

Jonathan Berg, BSc is a graduate student in Medical Anthropology and Sociology at the University of Amsterdam. He was project-assistant at De Regenboog Groep untill 2015.
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Abstract

Experiences of shame and psychological suffering by foodbank clients
Foodbanks have existed for over ten years in the Netherlands. They provide weekly food parcels to 94,000 households, according to the most recent figures published by the national Dutch food bank organization at the end of 2014. The national foodbank organizations set qualifying criteria for clients who wish to receive a food parcel on a weekly basis. Foodbanks in the Netherlands have different ways of distributing the food to their clients. In some foodbanks the clients need to stand in line and receive a pre-packaged food parcel. In other foodbanks, clients can choose which products they take home. The food is donated, which means that the contents of the food parcels vary in terms of both the amount of food that they contain and the type of food. Research shows that most clients of foodbanks in the Netherlands have a very low income and are in debt. International and Dutch studies show that many foodbank clients suffer from health problems and chronic diseases. Psychological problems are also common among foodbank clients.

In this article we aim to provide an insight into the psychological suffering, shame and other emotions that foodbank clients can experience. The findings are based on qualitative research, which was completed as part of an external PhD research study. We analysed 45 in-depth interviews with foodbank clients. We also related our findings to the results of studies on foodbank clients as well as studies about shame and stigma in relation to poverty. In the Netherlands, few studies have been conducted about foodbanks and their users, and in international studies too, the perspective of foodbank clients is missing. Our study fills this gap by focusing on these actors’ point of view.

For this research, we selected foodbank clients in Amsterdam based on quota sampling. We approached clients at the foodbank or by phone and conducted in-depth interviews with 18 men and 27 women. The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed in Atlas.ti by two researchers, using attribute and structural coding.

Our results show that foodbank clients use a combination of different strategies to cope with living on tight budgets. Most of them save money on food, non-food and social activities. Another strategy is to ask for support from family or friends for money, clothing or food. Some respondents are almost completely dependent on gifts from friends and the food parcel and some also reported being restricted in their social life and having lost friends. We found that lack of money is related to psychological suffering: sleeplessness, stress, fear, panic, depression and feelings of sadness. The causes mentioned for this suffering were: debts, persistent letters from creditors, and not being able to afford consumer goods and/or activities. Some respondents reported seeking to numb these feelings through the use of alcohol or cannabis. Others avoided opening letters or answering telephone calls.

In the interviews, foodbank clients expressed their feelings about their situation. Shame was the most frequently mentioned emotion and related to the label of “foodbank client”, the working method of the foodbank or not being able to consume what they wanted to. Firstly, respondents felt ashamed about being a foodbank client, because this is not acceptable in their social and cultural environment, and there is a negative stigma associated with being a foodbank client rather than a “normal working citizen”. Some of the respondents try to hide the fact that they use a foodbank, while others stated that they liked to form friendships with other foodbank clients because they would be more likely to accept and understand them. Another reaction was to downplay the situation. Secondly, shame was connected to the way that the foodbank operates. Clients feel ashamed to have to show their administration in the assessment interview before they can qualify for a food parcel. Shame is also felt when going to the foodbank and as result of the lack of choice of food. Thirdly, we found a category of shame that was related to the restrictions of consumption. The foodbank clients feel that they are unable to buy the food or clothing that they want or to take part in activities.

In conclusion, we found, in line with other studies, that foodbank clients experience psychological suffering and feelings of shame. These feelings of shame relate to the stigma attached to being a foodbank client and are reinforced by the way the foodbanks operate. Foodbank clients feel that they have a lack of choice, not only at the foodbank, but also in the wider context of the consumer society.

 

SAMENVATTING

Ervaringen van schaamte en psychologisch lijden door voedselbankklanten
Voedselbanken bestaan al meer dan tien jaar in Nederland en groeien in aantal en omvang. Er is beperkt wetenschappelijk onderzoek gedaan naar voedselbankklanten in Nederland en ook in internationale studies ontbreekt het klantperspectief. In dit artikel presenteren wij bevindingen uit 45 diepte-interviews met voedselbankklanten in Amsterdam, waarbij wij hun ervaring centraal stelden. De centrale vraag die wij in dit artikel beantwoorden is: welke rol spelen financiële problemen, schaamte en andere emoties bij voedselbankklanten in Amsterdam? Voedselbankklanten zeggen dat zij besparen op consumptiemiddelen en activiteiten vanwege hun gelimiteerde budget. Het gebrek aan geld beperkt een aantal respondenten in hun sociale leven. In reactie op geldzorgen laten sommigen hun post ongeopend of zij verdoven zich. De respondenten uiten dat zij stress, slapeloosheid, angst, paniek, depressie en/of somberheid door geldgebrek ervaren. Dit vatten wij samen als psychologisch lijden. Hiernaast is schaamte een veel genoemde emotie. Ook uit andere studies bleek dat schaamte veel voorkomt bij voedselbankklanten. Wij zagen hiervoor drie verschillende oorzaken: het stempel voedselbankklant, de werkwijze van de voedselbank en het beperkt zijn qua consumptiemogelijkheden. Reacties op de schaamte zijn: relativeren, afstand nemen of juist verbinding zoeken met andere voedselbankklanten. Hiernaast zijn er respondenten die proberen te verbergen dat zij voedselbankklant zijn. 

DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/jsi.477
How to Cite: Hoogland, H. & Berg, J., (2016). Ervaringen van schaamte en psychologisch lijden door voedselbankklanten. Journal of Social Intervention: Theory and Practice. 25(1), pp.71–89. DOI: http://doi.org/10.18352/jsi.477
Published on 22 Mar 2016.
Peer Reviewed

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