Photography student releases book to highlight the issue of food poverty

The stark reality of food poverty in modern Britain has been captured in black and white clarity by a photography student at the University of Plymouth.

Harry Gennard, a second year undergraduate, spent a week volunteering with Provide Devon and the Plymouth Soup Run, and documented the work of volunteers who’ve kept both charities running during the pandemic.

From floor-to-ceiling shelves stocked with donated goods to intensive food preparation for daily meals, Harry captured the scale of the challenge facing those organisations working to address food insecurity. And having submitted the photos for his degree project, Harry decided to create a book – Zero Hunger – to raise awareness of the issue and funds for Provide Devon, with proceeds from every copy sold being donated.

“I went into this project with an open mind,” 

Harry said. 

“But having witnessed the scale of the problem, and the selflessness of the volunteers, I felt I needed to make a contribution to the incredible work they are doing.”

As part of their second year, students on the BA Photography degree undertake a ‘collaborative practice’ module, in which they have to find a partner organisation with whom to work, and adopt one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a theme. Harry chose Zero Hunger, and contacted Provide Devon, a Christian charity that provides food and other essentials to local people at crisis point. 

Unlike many other foodbanks, Provide Devon works exclusively with referral agents to supply food parcels often at very short notice. Using a combination of fresh produce and donated food from retailers, businesses and the local community, the parcels are part of a more holistic and longer-term support package.

Due to COVID-19 safeguards, Harry was unable to meet those in need of the services, nor go out on any of the soup runs. But he is hoping his black and white photos speak volumes for the scale of the challenge.

“The issue of food security has been in the public spotlight thanks to the work of Marcus Rashford MBE in relation to free school meals,”

said Harry, 19, and from Gloucestershire.

"But the sobering reality is that there are people here who’ve been Involved with food poverty for over 20 years, and they’ve seen the situation deteriorate every single year. How can it be right that a wealthy country such as Britain is reliant on food charities to keep people fed?”

Steve Bailey, Operations and Charity Manager at Provide Devon, said: 

“It was great to see such enthusiasm and interest in food insecurity from Harry in the time he spent with Provide Devon and also Plymouth Soup Run. Sadly we continue to see an increase on both our services month by month which has only been made worse by the COVID-19 Pandemic. Job losses, family breakdowns, social isolation are all playing a very key role in demand.”

Heidi Morstang, Associate Professor in Photography, paid tribute to Harry’s work – and that of all of the students in dealing with the pandemic, adding:

“This was a complex module that required collaboration during a strict lockdown. The results have been hugely impressive, with the students demonstrating creative and entrepreneurial thinking – in some cases, making the impossible, possible! And great credit goes to Harry, who had an idea and stuck to it even though he had to wait until the final week of the module for the opportunity to volunteer and take photographs. And still he submitted his work on time!”

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