Andy Fisher is the author of the new book, Big Hunger: The Unholy Alliance between Corporate America and Anti-Hunger Groups. In this Civil Eats interview, Fisher explains why Big Food’s presence in the anti-hunger movement is problematic for public health (spoiler: follow the money!).
* “In the summer of 2013, I discovered the extent to which large, national anti-hunger organizations were trying to shut down criticism about anti-hunger programs. Steve Holt [who also writes for Civil Eats] wrote a two-part series criticizing food banks for being in bed with corporations for TakePart.com extensively quoting me. When the second part of the series didn’t run, I discovered that Feeding America went “ballistic” after reading the first article. They admitted that the critiques were true, but convinced the website to censor the second article. I also discovered that the Food Research Action Center (FRAC) tried to convince the Harvard School of Public Health to stop publishing research that was critical of the nutritional implications of the SNAP program.”
* “By failing to organize around wages and jobs, and perpetuating dependency on free food and food stamps, the anti-hunger community contributes to economic insecurity.”
* “We’ve pretended that the problem is hunger and not poverty. We’ve pretended that the solution to hunger is charity, not ensuring the right to food or increasing the political power of the poor. We’ve pretended that corporations are not to blame—at least in part—for the economic inequality that leads to hunger. We’ve pretended that we can take billions of dollars from companies such as Walmart and not compromise our integrity. It’s time to point out that the emperor has no clothes.”
* “The food industry has been an important player in advocating for the passage of SNAP in the Farm Bill. But at what cost? The beverage industry, for example, sold an estimated $6.5 billion of SNAP benefits on sugary beverages in 2011. Soda sales to SNAP recipients reinforces a poor American diet, and a diabetes epidemic. At the charity level, industry donates food, cash, volunteers, and board members (25 percent of food bank board members work at a Fortune 1000 company). In exchange, only a handful of food banks advocate for hunger-reducing policies such as a higher minimum wage.”