Fighting the good fight: food banks as social justice advocates? Public Deposited

This research addresses the problems of hunger and food insecurity through the analysis of food bank mission statements and programs. This research examines how food banks are addressing the issues of hunger and food insecurity through the programs they conduct. The intent was to discover the types of programs food banks operate that go beyond charitable handouts. This was accomplished using thematic and content analysis methods that were guided by grounded theory methodologies. Food bank mission statements and programs were analyzed to identify the orientations of food banks and their programs on a spectrum of charity to social justice. A total of 196 food bank mission statements were examined and were categorized into the three categories of charity, amelioration, and justice. The three categories make up the charity to social justice spectrum to which 64 percent of mission statements were categorized as charity, 30 percent as amelioration, and 6 percent as justice. A total of 99 programs from the food banks comprising the justice category were analyzed and categorized as either food distribution or non-food distribution. Non-food distribution programs representing nutrition education and transformative programs, characterized as addressing problems of poverty, were found to be social justice oriented. The most surprising finding was that occupational training programs were not justice oriented. Clients in occupational training programs were taught skills to enter low paying and seasonal jobs in the food service and agricultural sectors. Based on findings, a social-ecological model was used to situate food banks within the charity to social justice spectrum and to show how their orientations on the spectrum relate to hunger and food insecurity.

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