Food recovery groups and networks are springing up all over the world, building on increased concerns over the impact of waste on people and the environment. Food rescue efforts offer prosocial visibility, and thus are increasingly key to the public relations efforts of corporations and nonprofits. Although sometimes seen as the best solution to the food waste problem (Gregson and Alexander 2016), food rescue and donation maintain inequities in the food system and need more critical attention, particularly with regard to food and environmental justice issues. What are the broader forces, social and economic, that make food rescue such a popular option for those concerned about food waste, and how are those forces maintained or perpetuated in our everyday discourse and actions regarding food recovery and donation? This article looks at the discursive and performative forces that link food justice and food rescue inter/nationally, paying particular attention to the value given to saving food from waste. Specifically, after discussing the representation of food waste as a problem in large-scale governmental efforts, I then turn to analysis of ethnographic data and interviews with food recovery networks in rural and urban areas of the midwestern and northeastern United States. I look at who is saving food and their motivations for doing so. Last, I address these acts of rescuing food in light of larger questions about hunger, sustainability, and social justice: the issues linked to food waste and to efforts to reduce it.
Food Savers or Food Saviors?: Food Waste, Food Recovery Networks, and Food Justice
Leda Cooks is Professor in the Department of Communication at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst. Her research focuses on identity, culture, performance, pedagogy, and power in contexts ranging from the classroom to community decision-making around food and sustainability issues.
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Leda Cooks; Food Savers or Food Saviors?: Food Waste, Food Recovery Networks, and Food Justice. Gastronomica 1 August 2019; 19 (3): 8–19. doi: https://doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2019.19.3.8
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