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School of Social and Political Science: Research


Surplus food redistribution as ontological alchemy

Surplus food redistribution as ontological alchemy
Speaker: Dr Megan Blake # University of Sheffield
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Date and Time
13th Jan 2021 12:30 - 13th Jan 2021 14:00
Microsoft Teams (email for link)

There is considerable debate regarding the value of surplus food redistribution as a means for addressing the rising levels of food insecurity among low-income households in the United Kingdom.  While the debate has been argued in academic and policy circles, relatively little is understood about how food itself is known differently as it becomes enmeshed within the various assemblages that make up the chain of surplus food redistribution.  The argument presented draws on Mol’s material multiple ontologies approach to consider if and in what ways food fundamentally changes from waste to a new material when it shifts from one ecology of practice, commercial food production, to another, social food support.   Research results are based on qualitative field work conducted over four years involving twelve case study organisations based in the UK that either facilitate the movement of surplus food from the commercial sector to community-based organisations or are food-using organisations that directly provide food to eaters or are some combination of both.  The research finds that food that was once surplus alters to become a new material that has distinct social affordances, values and qualities, and when mobilised can have effects that help repair the damage that poverty enacts on people and places.

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