Struggling for food in a time of crisis: Responsibility and paradox

Caplan, Pat. 2020. Struggling for food in a time of crisis: Responsibility and paradox. Anthropology Today, 36(3), pp. 8-10. ISSN 0268-540X [Article]

Caplan, P. (2020) Struggling for food in a time of crisis- Responsibility and paradox.pdf - Published Version
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Abstract or Description

Responsibility is a useful lens through which to examine the current state of food poverty in the UK in the context of the Covid‐19 crisis, noting that this concept contains several paradoxes. Currently, responsibility involves the voluntary sector, the food industry and the state, a situation which the author has been exploring for the last five years in an ethnographic study of food poverty and food aid in the UK. Food aid organizations, especially food banks, have mushroomed during the period of austerity. This reveals the first paradox: namely, that the existence of food banks conveys the message that ‘something is being done’, but in actuality this is very far from being sufficient to meet the needs of either the ‘old’ or ‘new’ food insecure. The second paradox is that at the onset of the crisis, a government which had been responsible for inflicting austerity on the country for 10 years, dramatically reversed some of its policies. However, predictably, this did not change the situation vis‐à‐vis food insecurity. The third paradox is that the frequent rhetoric invoking the two world wars has not resulted in lessons being learned – notably, the creation of a ministry to deal with food and rationing, as in the Second World War. The final paradox relates to Brexit and its likely deleterious effects on food security, particularly if no ‘deal’ is achieved with the European Union, as seems likely. The voluntary food aid sector, try as it may, cannot possibly assume responsibility for the long‐standing and now hugely increased problems of food insecurity. That belongs to the state.

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5 May 2020Accepted
4 June 2020Published

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20 Aug 2020 15:38

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21 Aug 2020 09:05

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Yes, this version has been peer-reviewed.


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