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Food Banks: a New Crisis in the Developed World?

Special edition of the British Food Journal examines rise in food insecurity and subsequent food banks in the developed world

United Kingdom, 8 October 2014 - 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, includes a special edition that explores the issue of emergency food aid and food banks as well as prompting debate about the ‘deserving’ or ‘undeserving’ poor. 

Published by Emerald, a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society, the journal is guest edited by esteemed Professors Martin Caraher, City University London and Alessio Cavicchi from the University of Macerata in Italy, experts in food sustainability and policy. 

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.
1. 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.

2. 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.

3. 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.

4. 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.

5. 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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

8. 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.

9. 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.

About City University London
City University London is a global University committed to academic excellence, with a focus on business and the professions and an enviable central London location.  It is in the top five per cent of universities in the world according to the Times Higher Education World University Rankings 2013/14. It is ranked in the top 10 in the UK for both graduate-level jobs (The Good University Guide 2014) and in the top 5 for graduate starting salaries (Lloyds Bank).

The University attracts over 17,000 students (35% at postgraduate level) from more than 150 countries and academic staff from over 50 countries. More than 130,000 former students from over 180 countries are members of the City Alumni Network. Its academic range is broadly-based with world leading strengths in business; law; health sciences; engineering; mathematical sciences; informatics; social sciences; and the arts including journalism and music.

About the British Food Journal
After 115 years, the British Food Journal continues to be highly respected worldwide for its broad and unique interdisciplinary coverage of the latest food-related peer-reviewed research. It links all sectors of this dynamic industry, keeping abreast of emerging trends, topical and controversial issues and informing and stimulating debate.

The British Food Journal is key reading for academics, researchers and students in all social science/management/public health disciplines who are interested in food, as well as nutritionists and dieticians, food and agricultural companies who manufacture, market or supply food, food research institutes, and managers and professionals who work in the food industry.

About Emerald:
Emerald is a global publisher linking research and practice to the benefit of society. The company manages a portfolio of more than 290 journals and over 2,300 books and book series volumes. It also provides an extensive range of value-added products, resources and services to support its customers’ needs.

Emerald is a partner of the Committee on Publication Ethics (COPE) and works with Portico and the LOCKSS initiative for digital archive preservation. It also works in close collaboration with a number of organizations and associations worldwide.

To arrange access to the British Food Journal please contact:
Natasha Hartley,
Emerald Group Publishing Limited
+44 (0)1274 777700 or

To arrange interviews with Professor Martin Caraher please contact:
Helen Merrills,
City University London
+44 (0)20 7040 4191 or