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
I recently participated in symposium that was considering waste in relation to food. It was put on as a pre-conference event to the 2015 RGS/IBG meetings held in Exeter. The symposium, which took place on a working farm, was both fascinating and very engaging. You can find out more about the event and its participants on the web site developed by the organisers here. I encourage you to have a look at the link as you will learn about West Town Farm and the activities of the day. My role at the symposium was to give a short talk around the issue of food waste and neoliberalism. I chose to use an excellent food re-use project–The Real Junk Food Project–as a mechanism for focusing my questions. I am offering the text of my provocation in what follows. Continue reading
There is no doubt that food is a big issue and something that has exploded in the public consciousness in the Global West. Cities now have food strategies aimed at improving access to healthy food and there are moral panics, and maybe real panics, over the production of obesogenic environments that contribute to rises in diabetes, bowl cancer and heart disease and are largely considered to be caused by a food system that is supermarketized. Then there are the food scares and food scandals from BSE to Horse meat that plague Europe. At the same time, discussions regarding China’s food problems regularly pop up in the news; be they the problem of zoonotic diseases that threaten to turn into global pandemics, anxiety over how China will feed itself, distress over how China is taking over American food producers (e.g., Smithfield) to satisfy its own meat desire just as China’s products are invading American supermarket shelves, or assertions about the lack of integrity of Chinese food producers. What strikes me is that instead of constructing an Orientalist discourse around food issues of the west and the rest, West and East might come together to learn from each other and seek solutions. Here are just five food related problems that I think would benefit from just such a joined up approach.
I am currently reading a book by Nir Avieli, who is an academic at Ben Gurion University in Israel. The book is called Rice Talks (2012, Indiana University Press) and is about eating culture, and particularly rice as part of that culture, in Vietnam. It is an interesting book from the perspective of learning about how people in a particular place eat, though there are some generalisations about Chinese foodways, used within the book to provide context, that just don’t resonate. Continue reading
This post is in response to a WordPress Weekly Photo Challenge where the aim is to express the future tense. The photograph links back to a paper that I once wrote concerning the ways that food moulds (molds) or decays and at the same time shapes our daily life experiences. The fruit bowl representes a particular class consciousness that incorporates display of class ability and the inherent content of the still life, which is rooted in notions of controlling/disciplining/civilising nature. Continue reading