Graham Riches’ “Food Bank Nations: Poverty, Corporate Charity, and the Right” to Food (Routledge, 2018) is the climax of a career researching, writing, and advocating for the right to food, and explaining how food banks undermine that cause. Food Bank Nations looks at the spread of corporate charity through the OECD countries. Riches sees food banks as being at the moral vacuum at the heart of neoliberalism.
The book discusses the role of the Global Foodbanking Network, centered in Chicago and led by former Feeding America staff, has expanded to all 35 OECD countries. This expansion has undermined the right to food in these countries as “indifferent governments deny the [hunger] problem and look the other way, leaving the task of feeding the poor to the redistribution of wasted and surplus food.”
Riches traces the evolution of food banks from its 1967 Phoenix roots through the evolution of Second Harvest, Feeding America, and into international networks such as the European Federation of Foodbanks. He explores the hunger industrial complex in its international context, through the role of the Houston –based Foodbanking Leadership Institute in partnering with multinational companies to extend and expand the capacity of food banks in the international context.
Riches asks invaluable questions about this corporate capture of the right to food: “Who stands to benefit and why from Big Food’s take over of food charity from public welfare?”
Food Bank Nations stands true to Riches’ long-standing belief that it is the role of national governments to ensure the right to food, as enshrined in UN declarations and covenants. He points out the critical role that social movements and coalitions, such as Nourish Scotland and Food Secure Canada have in holding governments’ feet to the fire to ensure that those rights are justiciable.
Food Bank Nations might be a bit on the dense side for non-academics, but I found it highly readable and informative.