, Volume 11, Issue 4, pp 58-68

Celebrating hunger in Michigan: A critique of an emergency food program and an alternative for the future

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Michigan Harvest Gathering is a popular and nationally acclaimed antihunger campaign. It represents a state-sponsored partnership among public, private, and nonprofit institutions “to improve conditions for Michigan's citizens in need". This paper reviews the program, and in the process, critically examines its underlying assumptions about the nature of hunger and helping, about those who are hungry, and about the relationship of agriculture to the remediation of hunger throughout the state. It argues that, in keeping with Michigan's corporatist orientation, the program valorizes the agrofood industry at the expense of sustained public welfare. An alternative approach based on the development of greater local food autonomy provides a programmatic contrast to the elaboration of a “helping” industry designed to deliver emergency food assistance.

An earlier version of this paper was prepared for the session: "Food, Social Values and the Future: Interdisciplinary Crystal-Gazing" at the Cuisine, Agriculture & Social Change conference, jointly sponsored by Agriculture, Food, and Human Values Society and the Association for the Study of Food and Society, June 9–12, 1994, Tucson, AZ.
Laura B. DeLind is a Senior Academic Specialist in the Department of Anthropology at Michigan State University. Her research and writing focus on the economic, political, and sociocultural costs of industrial U. S. agriculture and in the need to develop more decentralized and sustainable systems of food production and distribution