Surplus food redistribution and healthy sustainable diets Exploring the contradictions of the charitable food system



Published Jun 28, 2021
Tara Kenny Colin Sage


A substantial body of literature points to the necessity of a ‘Great Food Transformation’ requiring an urgent shift towards sustainable food systems across multiple levels. A key part of this transition is the need to reduce food waste and food loss by 50 percent and where charitable surplus food redistribution is regarded as making an important contribution to this target.  Surplus driven charitable food provisioning is now part of the food environment in many countries and is influencing the diets of a significant number of people. Its proponents argue that such work contributes to a more sustainable food system by reducing food waste and food insecurity. However, few studies have examined the factors influencing the governance of food within the charitable food system.  This paper seeks to fill this gap in the literature through an examination of recent developments in charitable food provisioning in the Republic of Ireland.  Using Cork city as a case study we explore Ireland’s charitable food system by examining the motivations, ideas, and practices of key organisations. The paper highlights the growing role of surplus-driven charitable food systems and argues that the redistribution of surplus products for the purpose of reducing food waste and improving economic efficiency requires re-evaluation within a wider appreciation of sustainable diets, and, ultimately, with regard to strengthening the right to food for all.

How to Cite

Kenny, T. and Sage, C. (2021) “Surplus food redistribution and healthy sustainable diets: Exploring the contradictions of the charitable food system”, The International Journal of Sociology of Agriculture and Food. Paris, France, 27(1), pp. 71–86. doi: 10.48416/ijsaf.v27i1.82.
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