Opportunities for Cross-Class Solidarity and Political Activism in Community Food Programs

Friday, 20 July 2018: 15:45
Oral Presentation
Elaine POWER, Queen's University, Canada
One of the most pernicious effects of neoliberalism is the competitive individualism that inculcates a sense of isolation. This is devastating for individuals but also for efforts to address the social, political, environmental and public health crises that we are facing. Growing income inequality and class segregation by neighbourhood, schools, and community organizations means that there are few opportunities for people of different class backgrounds to come together to get to know each other. The voices and concerns of those living in poverty are increasingly marginalized and invisible in the public realm, especially because politicians are obsessed with the “middle class.” In a research project investigating the benefits of community food programs, I began to investigate the conditions in which clients and volunteers from different class backgrounds can develop cross-class solidarity and become politicized. Preliminary analysis of qualitative interviews with food program volunteers and clients, program directors, and social justice activists suggests that the development of cross-class solidarity and political activism may be possible if a number of conditions are met. These include the willingness of those from the middle class to have their belief system challenged and to be uncomfortable; the availability of an alternative frames of understanding; the deliberate fostering of the talents of those who live in poverty; and easy access to opportunities for advocacy and political action.