logo SBA


Digital archive of theses discussed at the University of Pisa


Thesis etd-03192018-092213

Thesis type
Tesi di dottorato di ricerca
Thesis title
Discourses and practices of food assistance in Italy. A case study on charitable food provision
Academic discipline
Course of study
tutor Prof. Brunori, Gianluca
controrelatore Prof. Di Iacovo, Francesco Paolo
  • assistenza alimentare
  • consensus frame
  • food poverty
  • povertà alimentare
  • practice theory
Graduation session start date
This thesis is grounded in a context of food poverty (re-)emerging as a matter of concern in affluent societies. Despite the non-food related nature of the problem – largely related to the financial and economic crisis, austerity policies, unemployment, cuts to social services, growing inequalities, among others – consequences have been the increase in the number of people seeking food assistance and the expansion of the so-called “emergency food system”. As a matter of fact, emergency food organisations have been the first – and often the only – to take on the responsibility for alleviating the symptoms of food poverty.
The research is organised as a qualitative study on food assistance with a focus on Italy. The overall aim of this thesis is to provide in-depth understandings of charitable food provision operations in Italy and to assess their actual and potential contribution to the alleviation of (food) poverty in an evolving context. Besides the increase in numbers and the progressive “normalisation” of individuals seeking for food aid, charitable food providers have been confronting resources contractions due to the temporary crisis of European funds for food aid and the competition of other food waste reduction initiatives.
After exploring the academic debate on food assistance in high income countries, Chapter 2 provides an overview of the various allocation of responsibilities among actors and institutions within a range of food provision initiatives. The interconnection between charitable food provision and food waste recovery is explored in Chapter 3 by means of an analysis of those public and institutional discourses, which eventually prepared the ground for the law against food waste passed in Italy in 2016. A consensus frame stands on, and contributes to further, the flattest interpretation of the two problems of food poverty and food waste that so-called “win-win” solutions address. The thesis moves on to charitable food provision undertaken in Italy (Tuscany) by Caritas. In Chapter 4, very fluid and responsive practices are described in detail and analysed in a context of change through the lens of practice theory. It is shown that, to a certain extent, practitioners have been able to improve upon their services by actively introducing new elements to the practice of food provision, but this remains still difficult to evaluate. In addition, several constraints to actors’ agency limit their capacity to move the practice forward and represent potential vulnerabilities for the system of food assistance. Chapter 5 extensively reports on a foresight exercise undertaken in 2016 with the main stakeholders of food provision in Tuscany. The two participative workshops, which have used a combination of explorative scenarios and back-casting planning, provided the stakeholders with the opportunity to engage in a process of change, by sharing priorities and new themes with a long-term perspective, and to explore potential partnerships and synergies.