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Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)


Food Studies

First Advisor

Alison H. Alkon

First Committee Member

Michelle Branch


U.S. food banks emerged thirty years ago as part of a temporary, charitable food assistance safety net to address government welfare shortfalls. Over time their size and scope expanded significantly alongside growing food insecurity. As government entitlement programs continue to erode, the ensuing institutionalization of food banks secured their future. Yet scholars such as sociologist Janet Poppendieck argued over twenty years ago that these charitable programs inadvertently prevent the government from reassuming responsibility by providing the public the illusion of a solution despite their inability to adequately meet the need. This research argues that food bank advocacy can be used to reduce hunger and address its root cause—poverty. A case study analysis of the advocacy programs of the San Francisco-Marin and Alameda County Community Food Banks describes how their advocacy work, in practice, addresses both Poppendieck’s and contemporary food bank critiques. This analysis illustrates how both case study organizations built their advocacy programs on a foundation of public food program outreach—redirecting their clients to government programs—but now affect change through divergent approaches. San Francisco employs a top-down government system reform and technical assistance model. Alameda’s bottom-up social justice model reaches past food programs to broader anti-poverty advocacy. In the process, both food banks have positioned themselves as models for their peers and as bridges connecting food assistance scholarship to public policy and practice.



Included in

Food Studies Commons



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