The Radical Act of Sharing Food

By: Shannon Tyman  

In this paper, I argue that sharing food is a radical practice that might provide a template for more ethical interactions within the alternative food movement (AFM). Broadly speaking, the movement recognizes the social, political, economic, and ethical repercussions of food choices and seeks to improve conditions for farm workers, animals, the ecosystem, and eaters. Fair trade, local, cage-free, and free-range are just a few of the terms used to describe morally-imbued foods that might contribute to positive outcomes. But what of those without the privilege of choice? The food justice movement is increasingly becoming more nuanced in its articulations around barriers to food access, but the alternative food movement as a whole has been less adept at addressing hunger. Here, I call upon ethnographic research with a chapter of the anarchistic collective Food Not Bombs that meets each week in Seattle, WA to share free food. The philosophical tenet of the group is that food is a right, not a privilege. Drawing lessons from this Free Market, as it is called, I explore how the act of sharing food across difference may result in new relationships with each other and with the concept of “good” food. Importantly, I also address another key tenet of FNB philosophy: the danger of understanding hunger as a matter for charity rather than politics.

Ethics AFM
Food, Politics, and Cultures
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session

Shannon Tyman

My work focuses on the intersection of urban and environmental studies with an emphasis on food politics. I am interested in the way in which food shapes both the physical environment as well as our social communities and vice versa. In addition, I have worked with co-operatives as a way of imagining a different food economy governed by democratic values; grassroots community organizations to educate about food systems and social justice; a government-funded initiative to increase food access; and urban agriculture ventures on the east and west coasts. My most recent work explores how disability studies might strengthen food justice scholarship.