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Does food rescue need rescuing?

Published:20 March 2018

Co-author Elisha Vlaholias-West - a CQUniversity alumnus who is now at OzHarvest in Melbourne.

Approaches to food charity, food welfare, and community food security should focus on solutions to the causes of food insecurity, including social inequality and environmental degradation.
 
It could also be useful to consider discussions around ‘sharing’ of food as a way of addressing the politics of ‘giving’ and ‘receiving’.
 
That’s according to the authors of a new article on The Ethics of Food Charity, published by Springer in the Encyclopedia of Food and Agricultural Ethics. The authors include Elisha Vlaholias-West (a CQUniversity alumnus who is now at OzHarvest in Melbourne) and CQUni researchers Dr Keri Chiveralls, Associate Professor Kirrilly Thompson and Professor Drew Dawson.
 
They say that food rescue organisations are now large-scale and prevalent and are starting to diversify in socially innovative ways to include initiatives like nutritional cooking workshops, hospitality training, and community gardens.
 
While these are steps in the right direction, a more ethical approach would address the causes of food insecurity; not just the symptoms.
 
Meanwhile, a ‘community food security’ approach is a step up from the food charity model, as it reconnects food production and consumption with the aim of ensuring an adequate, accessible, and sustainable food supply.
 
“There is thus a need to address food security as a symptom of broader structural and systemic issues including inequality, climate change, environmental degradation, population growth, resource depletion, resource conflict, poverty, and unemployment,” the paper says.
 
“A socially and ecologically innovative model could help move beyond both the traditional charity model and the community food security model.
 
“Permaculture ethics could provide a framework for a greater understanding of the complex links between social inequality, gender inequality, disability, food and class, and environmental degradation, to help tackle the structural and systemic causes of food insecurity, and build social-ecological resilience.”
 
The authors recommend engaging all stakeholders through collaborative design to avoid over-reliance on market forces, government funding, or volunteerism while being mindful of power differentials within and between different sectors.
 
“This could involve participatory action research with stakeholders to collaboratively design and develop socially and ecologically innovative models to reduce food insecurity and build social and ecological resilience.
 
“Such participatory research would enable the structural transformation of food charity recipients to producers and donators of ideas, insight and solutions to food insecurity.”