Why SURPLUS food is important for feeding vulnerable people

There have been a number of arguments in the press and on social media arguing that the use of surplus food to feed food insecure people is at best only a short-term solution and at worst harmful (e.g., Caraher 2017).  I would agree that the hunger that is caused by poverty is not only not being addressed by the UK government (see Blake 2015, and a more recent update of the article published by GMPA) but in some cases is being enhanced by current government policy (e.g., a benefits system that has built in delays, draconian sanctions, programme cuts that impact on the most vulnerable). In reading the argument, however, a number of issues stand out as needing further clarification and interrogation.  Firstly, there is a lack of understanding about food surplus in terms of what it is.  Secondly, there is misconception about how food surplus becomes food for bellies as it travels through the charity sector. Thirdly, there is an overly narrow understanding of the value of surplus food both for charities and those whom they support. These issues are explored in this blog post. Continue reading

Building an Unjust Foodscape: Shifting Governance Regimes, Urban Place Making and the Making of Chinese Food as Ordinary in Hong Kong

This is the text from my recently published peer-reviewed paper in the journal Local Environment.  The paper will be part of a special issue on Food Justice edited by Agatha Herman and Mike Goodwin in the future. The e-paper is available, but behind a paywall until May 2018. I am making the text available here as per the copyright agreement, but for correct referencing please see:  http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/13549839.2017.1328674

DOI: 10.1080/13549839.2017.1328674

Megan Blake ORCID http://orcid.org/0000-0002-8487-8202 Continue reading

The 2015 general election and its implications for food insecurity in the UK.

On Friday, 8 May 2015 I awoke to discover that not only were we not looking forward to a new coalition government in the UK, but that the overall collapse of the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party has given the Conservative government a mandate in UK politics. While I, at an individual level, am likely to see some benefits from the strong neoliberalism that underpins this government’s ideology, I am concerned by the implications of this for the country more generally and particularly the nation’s poor. Indeed, I see a further deepening of the division between those who have and those who have not. As I will elaborate, this will mean the continued exponential growth in the numbers of people requiring emergency food assistance and increased numbers of children and elderly with inadequate food supply, which will also translate into higher rates of obesity, diet rated illness and malnutrition. These trends as they are situated within the current climate of neoliberal austerity will also mean that we, if we are to continue as a nation with social values (as opposed to only economic values) must find ways of filling the gap, not just for families but also for our communities. Continue reading

Food Security and Food Justice Video Presentation by Megan Blake

The University of Sheffield recently engaged a new form of teaching for level 1 students. Known broadly as Achieve More, all first year students (nearly 2000) in the Faculty of Social Science were given a programme of talks on key issues and undertake some investigative challenges that would be completed in within the week.  There are 8 groups of students (with 7 in each group), who are working on projects with me concerning the food landscape of Sheffield.  I also gave one of the talks. The video of it is available here.

Food Security and Food Justice Achieve More talk–Megan Blake

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We need to talk about hunger

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If you look through the door of my pantry you will see a window into my world.  My pantry expresses my likes and dislikes and my cultural background by the presence and absence of certain goods. You will also see that in my house, we are not hungry.  I have been hungry in the past.  I plan against this by stocking up for the possibility that there might come a day when I might not have money.  It isn’t an entirely rational approach to domestic food provisioning as it is a practice that produces waste.  But, I always know where my next meal is coming from.  My household budget is shaped by my past experience of hunger.  I am sure I am not alone, but for some reason hunger is not a fashionable term these days.  What is that all about?

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Metaphor of the down escalator: Zimbabwe and the decent into food insecurity.

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What, you may ask, does a shopping mall in Hong Kong have to do with the food situation in Zimbabwe?  Well, I’ll tell you.  When we first moved to Hong Kong, people told me that Grace Mugabe has been frequently spotted shopping at this mall.  Apparently the Mugabe’s have a house in a development known as The Beverly Hills in Hong Kong. True or not, I am not certain.  There is clear evidence that the Mugabe’s have access to cash and a will to spend it. What is also certain is that the situation in Zimbabwe is still critical as the industry is in free fall (see this report) and the UN World Food Programme is predicting that the upcoming months will bring the worst ‘Hunger Season’ in years (see the report (here). Continue reading