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Why Can't America Solve the Hunger Problem?

The new book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups argues that food banks and pantries don’t chip away at underlying issues that keep people food-insecure.
A shopper fills her cart at the Food Bank For New York City Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.
A shopper fills her cart at the Food Bank For New York City Community Kitchen & Food Pantry of West Harlem.Shannon Stapleton/Reuters

In many metropolitan areas, the food bank is viewed as a vital and beloved community institution. Companies send teams of volunteers down around the holidays to sort through canned soups and boxed macaroni. Can drives at schools and offices warm the hearts of those who give and fill the shelves of food banks and pantries. To most, the food bank is utterly non-controversial, revered on both the political left and right for its steady work helping to feed the roughly 40 million Americans who sometimes wonder where their next meal will come from.

The longtime Portland, Oregon-based anti-hunger activist Andy Fisher tells a different story in his new book Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance Between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups. Fisher, a founder of the National Food Security Coalition, writes that food banks and other anti-hunger organizations (as well as federal programs) are far too cozy with big corporations. He describes the result as “toxic charity” that has barely moved the needle on American food insecurity in more than 30 years.