Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Food Studies


Anne Bellows


food security;human rights;hunger;right to food

Subject Categories

Food Science | Life Sciences


In the United States, there is no legal right to food. The right to food is more than food security, it encompasses dignity, access, choice, financial security, and more. Rather than addressing food insecurity through a human rights-based approach, the US relies on a complex system of emergency food providers, including food banks. Food banks most often take a charity approach to providing individuals with food, failing to meaningfully recognize or address the structural causes of hunger and poverty. In recent years there have been increased efforts made by civil society to move conversation and state level policy in the direction of a rights-based approach to food security. The shift towards a rights-based approach is a means to make the federal, state, and local governments more accountable for ending hunger and ensuring human dignity to those in need of food. This thesis explores the potential role of food banks in moving towards the right to food by gaining a better understanding of food bank staff’s perceptions of current food bank models and practices. Through observation, critical review of the literature and qualitative interviews with food bank staff and experts within the right to food, this thesis offers greater insight to how food bank staff understand the current emergency food system and the viability of the right to food. Research findings illuminate food bank staffs’ current understandings of the right to food, concern about engaging in advocacy and policy efforts, and the influence of the complex network of actors that exist within food banks work, including partner agencies and Feeding America. Interviewed food bank staff overwhelmingly understand food banks and charity will not solve the issue of hunger in America. I argue that through engaging in broader advocacy efforts and utilizing the power and influence of food banks to educate the public on root causes of hunger, including structural racism, food banks can help contribute toward the conditions for the right to food.


Open Access

Included in

Food Science Commons



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