CfP AAG2018: Rethinking Food Access Research. Food Charity and Emergency Food Access

Organizers: Angela Babb (Indiana University) & Joshua Lohnes (West Virginia University)

Discussant: Dan Warshawsky (Wright State University)

Born out of crisis 30 years ago, the charitable food network in the United States is an ad hoc food safety net woven out of the gaps left by a receding state and overproduction along agro-industrial supply chains (Poppendieck, 1998). The consumptive routes opened by this vast yet poorly understood food delivery system serve 46 million people every month through 56,000 local charities spread across the country (Coleman and Jensen, 2014). 4.5 billion pounds of food were processed by the Feeding America network of food banks last year, a number that has doubled in less than a decade. Scholarship on the geography of food banking (Henderson, 2004; Warshawsky, 2010; Lindenbaum, 2016) highlights the role of these parastatal institutions in revaluing food waste, yet there are fewer studies on the spatial distribution of the affiliate agencies processing and redistributing this food to consumers across a food bank’s territory.

Local food charities serve households that market channels have partially or fully excluded. These organizations lie in a complicated position between the shadow state and alternative economies (Pine, 2016). They play a role in cultural production (McCutcheon, 2015) and have the potential to be a voice in the food justice movement (Dixon, 2015), even as they continue to reproduce a geography of survival in oft-hidden feeding spaces (Heynen, 2008). Despite this complexity, community food security planners and advocates are increasingly leaning on the charitable food infrastructure to reach low-income consumers with their programming.

This session seeks to draw together scholars focusing on emergency food networks to discuss their expanding role in the food system, their relationship to hindering or expanding food access, and whether there is a potential for charitable food networks to foster food system change. Themes may include but are not limited to:

  • Charity as a food access strategy among vulnerable households
  • The political economy of charitable food networks
  • The governance of charitable food networks
  • Structural inequity related to Race/Class/Gender/Neocolonialism within charitable food networks
  • Emergent links between charitable and alternative food networks
  • Emergent links between Charity and Food Justice
  • Opportunities and limits of advocacy within emergency food networks
  • Uneven development and food charity

Please send a title and brief abstract (250 words) to and by October 15th, 2017


Dixon, B. 2015. Rewriting the call to charity: From food shelf volunteer to food justice advocate. Journal of Agriculture, Food Systems and Community Development. 5(2):71-79

Henderson, 2004. ‘Free’ food, the local production of worth, and the circuit of decommodification. Environment and Planning D. Vol. 22. pp. 485­512.

Heynen, Nik. 2008. Bringing the body back to life through Radical Geography of Hunger: The haymarket affair and its aftermath. ACME: An International E­Journal for Critical Geographies, Vol. 7 (No. 1), pp. 32­44

Lindenbaum, J., 2016. Countermovement, Neoliberal Platoon, or Re‐Gifting Depot? Understanding Decommodification in US Food Banks. Antipode, 48(2), pp.375-392.

McCutcheon, P., 2015. Food, faith, and the everyday struggle for black urban community. Social & Cultural Geography, 16(4), pp.385-406.

Pine, Adam. 2016. Confronting Hunger in the USA: Searching for Community Empowerment and Food Security in Food Access Programs. Routledge

Poppendieck, Janet. 1998. Sweet Charity? Emergency Food and the End of Entitlement. Penguin Books: New York.

Warshawsky, Daniel. 2010. New power relations served here: The growth of food banking in Chicago. Geoforum. No. 41. pp.763­775.


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