Food Banks As Grassroots Initiatives: Defying Food Injustice in Spain One Step at the Time

Wednesday, 18 July 2018: 10:50
Oral Presentation
Anahi VILADRICH, City University of New York, USA, Queens College of the City University of New York, CUNY, USA
Maria Antònia CARBONERO, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
María GÓMEZ GARRIDO, University of the Balearic Islands, Spain
This paper presents an ongoing research project concerning the main theoretical models and empirical findings on voluntary giving and grassroots organizing focused on hunger relief efforts in Spain. Two models are examined here: registered food banks, which embody a top-down philanthropic rationale, and grassroots food banks and pantries, which represent bottom-up initiatives based on self-organizing and localized political action. Registered food banks, although upholding the interests of agri-business in giving their surplus food to the needy, have been successful in supporting an extensive system of charity based on improving food security in Spain. Born as a response to the financial crisis in Spain beginning in the late aughts, grassroots food initiatives are supported by community organizing, mutual aid, and transformative social change.

Conceived as a form of micro-resistance, solidarity food pantries have emerged in contexts of interpersonal proximity under the principles of decentralized solidarity at the local level. This novel form of reciprocal solidarity (also called as neo-communitarianism) plays a dual role as a means to include oneself in alternative forms of (re) production on the one hand, and achieve social acknowledgement (and dignity) on the other. While this paper addresses the ideological underpinnings that distinguish the two models, it also critically analyzes their similarities. Chief among these is the fact that both depend on voluntary giving (i.e., food donations from large food corporations). Furthermore, they rely on a voluntary labor force, focus much of their activities on gathering and distributing (leftover and discarded) food, and launch food drives as a main organizational tool. Given the reign of neoliberalism and progressive state retrenchment, this study hopes to raise awareness about the challenges that Spanish grassroots initiatives face in providing long-term food relief to individuals across all levels of poverty and scarcity in the developed world.