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Farm to Food Bank: A Food Bank's Network of Locally Produced Food

Alana Haynes Stein, Catherine Brinkley


We examine the relationship between the private food assistance system and the local food movement through the case of a food bank in an agricultural area of California’s Central Valley. Food bank donor relationships have been studied for the outsized role they have on influencing food banking. However, local food in food banks has been underexamined in both the food bank literature and the local food movement literature.

Building on the work of Hinrichs (2000) and Block (1990), we seek to better understand the embeddedness of a local food system from a Polanyian approach. We ask: how are local food system donors embedded in their local food system and how do marketness and instrumentality influence food bank donations within the local food system? We use geospatial analysis of food bank donations, network analysis of the local food system, and 23 interviews with local food bank donors and food bank staff in a mixed methods approach.

We find that donations of local food comprise a sizable portion of the donations the food bank receives and that these donors tend to be much more likely to be organic and involved in the local food system than other farms in the region. We also find that even as the local food movement expands to food banks, local food donations are still accompanied by a focus on instrumentality and marketness rather than truly being an “alternative” approach to the capitalist mode of production.

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