The food poverty challenge: comparing food assistance across EU countries. A Transformative Social Innovation perspective

F. Galli, A. Hebinck, S. Arcuri, G. Brunori, B. Carroll, D. O'Connor, H.A. Oostindië

Research output: Contribution to conferenceConference paperAcademic


Most people in EU are food secure, but there are socio economic groups that struggle with poverty and health, making them vulnerable to food insecurity and in recent years there has been an increase in people needing food assistance in Europe. As the literature portrays, the position of food assistance in the food system is a contested one. On the one hand, critics describe it as a failure of the state, while others see it as an extension of the welfare state. Responsive policies are hindered by the lack of a universally agreed definition of food poverty, which remains in general peripheral to the work of most policy makers. There is need for an enhanced understanding of the role of food assistance initiatives in the wider welfare landscape of high income countries. This paper departs from the belief that a bottom-up approach is needed to understand the complexity of food assistance mechanisms and that no “one fits all” positions and solutions are helpful in this regard. The aim of this paper is to compare how different approaches to food assistance across Europe contribute to food and nutrition security change, focussing on case studies in Italy, the Netherlands and Ireland. By adopting a Transformative Social Innovation perspective, this comparison sheds light on differences, cross-cutting issues and suggest possible avenues for pursuing better food and nutrition security in Europe. The three case-studies were analysed by comparing them on the level of social innovation, system innovation, game-changers and narratives of changes and allowed us to theorize the transformative capacity of these food assistance initiatives. It concludes that the three diverse cases of food assistance initiatives should not be seen in isolation from the more complex food system. Some of the emerging practices aim, in different ways and contexts, to reshape food assistance capacity and as such contribute to food and nutrition security. As such, the contribution of such initiatives to transformative change in food poverty is difficult to pin down, as it is a multi-layered phenomenon that interacts with many other societal systems.
Original languageEnglish
Publication statusPublished - 22 Sep 2016
EventSIDEA 2016: "The future of agriculture between globalization and local markets" - San Michele, San Michele, Italy
Duration: 22 Sep 201624 Sep 2016


ConferenceSIDEA 2016
CitySan Michele


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