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Food Assistance Justice: The Spatial Prevalence of Food Banks in California*

Alana Haynes Stein


This project seeks to broaden conceptions, understandings, and applications of food justice through applying food justice to the private food assistance network. The private food assistance network consists of food banks, food pantries, and other meal programs that seek to provide food to food insecure people through an alternative food system that has thus far been understudied by food justice scholarship.

I incorporate a food justice perspective into the study of food banks in order to better understand how certain communities may have better access to this alternative food system than others. Using a unique georeferenced database of California food banks that I created, I will map the location of food banks in relation to poverty, racial composition, and rurality. Preliminary results suggest that the food banks are not distributed equitably in regard to race and poverty. Examining the private food assistance network through a food justice perspective, raises the question of whether the social safety net may be disproportionately serving some populations better than others, thus further disadvantaging populations who are already more prone to food insecurity.

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