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Portrait of Laurie Egger


Postal address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom



The Study
The US has a long history of government food assistance, which comprises the bulk of financial assistance for poor families in the US. These US programmes have been much studied and reviewed. The UK, on the other hand, has a growing food insecurity problem, as evidenced by the recent explosive growth of food banks.  The UK government is committed to the reduction of health inequalities and hunger, but it has not traditionally provided direct food assistance.  My study uses the US experience to help to inform UK policy, as it addresses the growing problems of food insecurity, hunger and malnutrition, particularly in young children.

My research focuses more narrowly on the social implications and stigma associated with the Healthy Start Scheme. Through interviews with parents of young children in London and Leicester my goal is to gain an understanding of their food practices and obstacles to eating a healthy diet and their perceptions of the role of welfare and food vouchers. Interviews have also been conducted with healthcare workers who act as the gatekeepers for the scheme to understand their impressions of the challenges faced by young parents and the role of the vouchers.

Why it matters for Food Policy
Food insecurity and poverty lead to a monotonous and less healthful diet.  Although nutrition in the first years of life is critically important, children in deprived families often do not have access to the healthy food that will maximize their future success. Children in the most deprived families are more than twice as likely as children in the least deprived families to be obese when they enter school.  

Despite continuing need, participation rates in the Healthy Start scheme have been falling dramatically in recent years. By examining attitudes toward Healthy Start and the social politics surrounding it, as described by participants and healthcare workers, my research provides insight not only into declining rates of participation, but also the unintended social consequences of the scheme which can inform more effective policy solutions.


  1. MSc Food Policy, City, University of London, UK
  2. MBA, New York University, United States
  3. BA, Williams College, United States