Big Hunger

The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups

by Fisher

ISBN: 9780262339520 | Copyright 2017


How to focus anti-hunger efforts not on charity but on the root causes of food insecurity, improving public health, and reducing income inequality.

Food banks and food pantries have proliferated in response to an economic emergency. The loss of manufacturing jobs combined with the recession of the early 1980s and Reagan administration cutbacks in federal programs led to an explosion in the growth of food charity. This was meant to be a stopgap measure, but the jobs never came back, and the “emergency food system” became an industry. In Big Hunger, Andrew Fisher takes a critical look at the business of hunger and offers a new vision for the anti-hunger movement.

From one perspective, anti-hunger leaders have been extraordinarily effective. Food charity is embedded in American civil society, and federal food programs have remained intact while other anti-poverty programs have been eliminated or slashed. But anti-hunger advocates are missing an essential element of the problem: economic inequality driven by low wages. Reliant on corporate donations of food and money, anti-hunger organizations have failed to hold business accountable for offshoring jobs, cutting benefits, exploiting workers and rural communities, and resisting wage increases. They have become part of a “hunger industrial complex” that seems as self-perpetuating as the more famous military-industrial complex.

Fisher lays out a vision that encompasses a broader definition of hunger characterized by a focus on public health, economic justice, and economic democracy. He points to the work of numerous grassroots organizations that are leading the way in these fields as models for the rest of the anti-hunger sector. It is only through approaches like these that we can hope to end hunger, not just manage it.

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Contents (pg. vii)
Series Foreword (pg. ix)
Foreword (pg. xi)
Acknowledgments (pg. xv)
Introduction: Lost Opportunities and Collateral Damage (pg. 1)
Rust Is Not an Emergency (pg. 1)
Working toward Community Food Security (pg. 5)
Chapter Summaries (pg. 8)
1 Occupy Hunger (pg. 11)
Walk for Hunger (pg. C1)
Hunger Becomes Food Insecurity (pg. 12)
Public Commitment to Anti-Hunger Efforts (pg. 14)
Religious Perspectives (pg. 16)
What Is Hunger? (pg. 18)
Perpetuating Hunger (pg. 19)
Shooting Oneself in the Foot with Pragmatism (pg. 25)
Doubling Down on Childhood Hunger (pg. 28)
Who Benefits from the Hunger Concept? (pg. 31)
Taking Back Hunger (pg. 33)
Summary (pg. 38)
2 The Charity Trap (pg. 41)
The Greater Boston Food Bank (pg. 41)
History and Structure of the Charitable Food System (pg. 43)
The Toll on Recipients (pg. 46)
Food Quality (pg. 50)
Shortening the Line, or Finding the Exit Signs (pg. 54)
Constraints (pg. 58)
A Vision for Charitable Food (pg. 71)
Summary (pg. 76)
3 The Politics of Corporate Giving (pg. 77)
The Walmart “Fights Hunger” Pledge (pg. 77)
Evolution of Corporate Philanthropy (pg. 78)
The Motivations for Corporate Philanthropy (pg. 82)
Giving to Anti-Hunger Groups (pg. 85)
Case Studies (pg. 88)
Summary (pg. 98)
4 SNAP’s Identity Crisis (pg. 105)
Public Health or Anti-Hunger? (pg. 105)
Sweet on Sweets (pg. 107)
SNAP Background (pg. 110)
Debates over Food Choices in SNAP (pg. 114)
Information Vacuum (pg. 122)
Anti-Hunger Response (pg. 124)
Industry: Partner or Predator? (pg. 129)
SNAP Recipients Chime In (pg. 132)
Analysis (pg. 135)
Summary (pg. 139)
5 Economic Democracy through Federal Food Programs (pg. 143)
Food Distribution on the Indian Reservation (pg. 143)
An Accomplice to the Food Industry (pg. 145)
Leading the Way for Change (pg. 149)
The Evidence for Decoupling Food Aid (pg. 155)
Summary (pg. 178)
6 Who’s at the Table Shapes What’s on the Agenda (pg. 185)
Income Inequality and Persistent Poverty (pg. 185)
Barriers to Working on Wages (pg. 197)
Who’s at the Table? (pg. 201)
Were the Poor Always Missing from the Table? (pg. 204)
What Limits the Participation of the Poor? (pg. 206)
Summary (pg. 211)
7 Innovation within the Anti-Hunger Movement (pg. 215)
Closing the Hunger Gap (pg. 215)
Efforts by Anti-Hunger Groups (pg. 217)
Putting It All Together (pg. 223)
Oregon Food Bank: Eliminating Hunger and Its Root Causes (pg. 224)
Second Harvest Food Bank of Santa Cruz County: Community Empowerment for Health (pg. 228)
The Stop: Solidarity Not Charity (pg. 232)
Freedom 90: The Church Ladies Rebel against Perpetual Charity (pg. 236)
Just Harvest: The Solution to Hunger Is Justice, Not Food. (pg. 238)
Summary (pg. 240)
8 Innovative Models from Outside the Anti-Hunger Field (pg. 243)
Important Lessons for the Movement (pg. 243)
Coalition of Immokalee Workers: Transforming an Industry (pg. 244)
OUR Walmart (pg. 249)
The Food Trust: Improving Access to Healthy Foods in the City of Brotherly Love (pg. 252)
Community Food Projects: R&D for the Food Movement (pg. 256)
Summary (pg. 260)
Conclusion: Toward a New Vision for the Anti-Hunger Movement (pg. 261)
The Institutionalized Emergency (pg. 261)
Leadership (pg. 263)
Hope (pg. 264)
At a Crossroads (pg. 271)
Postscript: December 2016 (pg. 272)
Appendix 1: Primary National Anti-Hunger Groups in the United States (pg. 273)
Appendix 2: Trends in Prevalence Rates of Food Insecurity and Very Low Food Security in U.S. Households, 1995–2015 (pg. 275)
Appendix 3: Index of Acronyms (pg. 277)
Notes (pg. 279)
Introduction (pg. 279)
Chapter 1 (pg. 280)
Chapter 2 (pg. 286)
Chapter 3 (pg. 292)
Chapter 4 (pg. 299)
Chapter 5 (pg. 306)
Chapter 6 (pg. 314)
Chapter 7 (pg. 320)
Chapter 8 (pg. 323)
Conclusion (pg. 326)
Index (pg. 327)

Andrew Fisher

Andrew Fisher has worked in the anti-hunger field for twenty-five years, as the executive director of national and local food groups, and as a researcher, organizer, policy advocate, and coalition builder. He has led successful efforts to gain passage of multiple pieces of federal food and nutrition legislation.