Friday, January 19, 2018

Coalition Building and Alliances in Andy Fisher's Big Hunger

In Andy Fisher's ferocious condemnation of anti-hunger organizations -- titled Big Hunger: the Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups (MIT Press, 2017) -- there is much to appreciate.

The book rightly uses a poverty-centered lens to diagnose the causes of food insecurity and hunger in the United States. It skewers a narrow type of charitable anti-hunger work that focuses only on food delivery without looking upstream at the causes of hunger. It provides a perceptive and engaging account of the relationship between national organizations, such as Feeding America and the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC), and their regional allies, such as Joel Berg of Hunger Free America. It recounts an array of silly tone-deaf hunger-themed corporate marketing campaigns, such as the Snickers Bar Hunger campaign. It offers an astute history of the cooperative but tense conversation between public health nutrition advocates and anti-hunger advocates about SNAP reforms designed to promote dietary quality.

Still, I doubted the sincerity of the closing chapters' wishes to "foster increased dialogue across the movement" or to build "new alliances" between groups with diverse public interest goals. By and large, this book is a highly public wallop, bloodying the nose of the leading advocacy organizations that have for decades rallied political support for essential U.S. anti-hunger programs. This book makes lively reading, and has some good reporting, but I'll be surprised if it becomes the reading-club book for any constructive cross-sectoral dialogue.

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