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Food Banks: a New Crisis for Old Plates?

Special edition of the British Food Journal edited by Professor Martin Caraher

Food banks are not a new concept, however, the last ten years has seen them re-surface in the developed world. The latest edition of the highly respected publication, the British Food Journal, explores the issue of emergency food aid and food banks.

Published by Emerald Group Publishing, the journal is guest edited by Professors Martin Caraher, City University London and Alessio Cavicchi from the University of Macerata in Italy.

The papers in this special edition address the issue of emergency food aid in countries of the developed world, taking accounts from Italy, the Netherlands, the UK, Canada and Australia. The articles all consider the underpinning model of 'foodbanking', along with the shifting nature of those using food banks for emergency food aid and the working poor, the roll back of the state from food welfare provision, the emotional toll on those using charity food provision and heroic self-denial, where families suffer and mothers go without food.

Professor Caraher comments: "The articles in this edition demonstrate the growing need for people to be fed, they also indicate that governments are withdrawing from providing food to those in need and leaving it to the charity sector. The research in this edition shows that people in receipt of food charity suffer conflicting feelings of guilt and anger alongside gratitude."

"On the one hand food banks can be seen as indicators of caring concern, on the other, as a failure of the state to provide an adequate standard of living to its citizens. We are also facing a new sort of food crisis in many developed countries with increasing numbers of people unable to manage on existing budgets and turning to food banks for help, this places strain on the limited resources of food banks to provide more and more food."

Summary of articles

There are in total 9 articles from a range of countries in the developed world.

  • Hungry for change: The food banking industry in Australia

Over the last 20 years, food banks in Australia have expanded nationwide and are a well-organised "industry" operating as a third tier of the emergency food relief system. This paper examines the expansion and operation of food banks as an additional self-perpetuating "tier" in the response to hunger

  • Food banks, welfare, and food insecurity in Canada

Similar to the recent emergence of food banks in other affluent nations, food banks in Canada have been tightly intertwined with the dismantling of the welfare state. Through an examination of Canadian data, the authors elucidate the implications of voluntary, extra-governmental, charitable food assistance programs as an adjunct to publicly funded social assistance programs.

  • Rising use of 'food aid' in the United Kingdom.

This paper presents the findings from two recent reviews on food aid use in the UK and discuss their implications and the challenges they posed for researchers, policy makers and the voluntary and community sector.

  • UK print media coverage of the food bank phenomenon: from food welfare to food charity

There were no UK-focused newspaper articles before 2008 and few until 2012 when the number increased dramatically. A key theme in reporting was increasing numbers of food banks and users of them. The data most often cited were from the Christian charity The Trussell Trust, which runs a franchise system of food banks. Stories of tensions between three key sets of players: government ministers, church leaders and The Trussell Trust emerged in 2013.

  • The adaptive change of the Italian Food Bank: a case study

This paper examines the Italian Food Bank Foundation, highlighting how ongoing global and European challenges are pushing the organisation to adapt and change in the light of increasing demand from users and the loss of sources of food such as the EU programme.

  • Surplus food recovery and donation in Italy: the upstream process

This paper offers quantitative evidence on how surplus food, i.e. safe food that is not sold to the intended customers, is generated and recovered within Italian manufacturing and retail firms. The paper shows the process through which the food supply chain firms come to donate surplus food-to-food banks.

  • Food Rescue - An Australian Perspective

Food rescue is used in the emergency food sector internationally to reduce waste and improve food supplies to frontline providers and their clients. This article provides a perspective on why and how food rescue occurs in Australia and examines food rescue as a potential evolution within the emergency food setting.

  • Foodbank of Western Australia's Healthy Food for All

In Australia, the Foodbank of Western Australia (Foodbank WA) has a reputation for innovative approaches incorporating healthy lifestyle initiatives (i.e. nutrition and physical activity education) into its core food bank business. Some of these initiatives are described here.

  • The "dark side" of food banks? Exploring emotional responses of food bank receivers in the Netherlands (accepted).

Social status as well as the interactions at the food bank induce emotions in receivers, such as shame, gratitude and anger. Since early 2000s a steadily growing number of low-income and/or over-indebted households in the Netherlands alleviate their situation with food donations from local food banks. However, receiving food assistance as well as eating the products forces the receivers to set aside embodied dispositions towards food and norms about how to obtain food. Furthermore, it places them in interactions of charitable giving that may be harmful to the self-esteem of receivers.

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